A new curriculum sweeping the country known as Common Core academics is poised to reshape the three rules of school: reading, writing and arithmetic. Cutting out cursive handwriting, Common Core places heavy merit on keyboarding and computer skills; its tests are reliant on computers.
Not only does that mean kids might not be able to read their own name if grandma or their favorite aunt addresses their birthday card in cursive, educators caution kids won’t be able to read the powerful signatures on historical documents like the Declaration of Independence or other primary sources of information and research.
Forty-one of the 50 United States no longer require public schools to include cursive reading or writing as part of the curriculum.
“I think this is a big mistake,” says Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring and Test Prep in Fairfax, Va. and Bethesda, Md. “The issue is not that kids need to know how to write in cursive, but they need to be able to read cursive. In order to read cursive, you have to be able to write it and thus need exposure to it in the classroom.”
Experts like Dolin opposed to the end of cursive argue practicing handwriting helps small children develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and other brain and memory functions. Dolin says the development training that cursive affords is said to be important for kids hoping to one day be a surgeon, painter, nanotech engineer or other professions that require laser-like precision of the hands.
No Cursive? No Emotion.
Allison VanNest, a spokesperson for Grammarly, an automated proofer and grammar coaching site, says computer screens simply cannot transmit human emotion in the same way as a handwritten letter. “A person’s handwriting says a lot about them, from how firmly they press pen to paper, to how quickly they are able to communicate a message, to their personality type.”
But today, if we’re lucky, we are only able to gauge these aspects of our family and friends on birthdays and holidays, and even then, we typically receive a pre-written card with their solitary signature.
“Because a typed message can be completed so quickly, Americans tend to rush through important communication. As a result, we’re losing much of the emotion that we previously included in handwritten letters,” says VanNest.
But not everyone is sold on the notion that cursive needs to stick around.
Lisamarie Curley, a West Islip, N.Y., certified occupational therapist in elementary, middle and high school says she frequently receives referrals for students who just cannot master the art of cursive handwriting.
“Cursive truly is an art, and I am always tormented by the necessity of this torture. Business transactions, interviews, and most important events happen in an instant; why are we wasting our time teaching children things they will never use in their adult lives?” she asks.