It was once common practice for students to be graded in the area of “penmanship,” as children labored over lined paper to replicate their teachers’ cursive Qs and Zs. This was before computers became regular learning tools in the classroom, and since then, some schools have been making the decision to stop teaching cursive writing.Education News reports that this change is partially due to the implementation of the common core standards, which does not require teaching cursive handwriting but instead emphasizes more technology-oriented learning. It will be ultimately up to individual districts to decide whether they will continue teaching cursive writing or ditch what may become an obsolete skill.
Differences in Approaches
Education News cites the Aberdeen Public Schools in South Dakota, where opinions vary considerably. While the schools decided that all students will continue to learn cursive writing in third grade, it is up to the teacher how they want to approach the subject and how much or how little time they wish to spend on cursive instruction. While some educators feel that time spent teaching cursive will take away from other Common Core skills that must be taught, the Aberdeen Christian School remains committed to intensive instruction from first through fifth grade.
Rise of the Machines
CNN believes that the Internet has significantly affected the decrease in cursive handwriting instruction. The Common Core calls for students to work on increasing digital literacy and gaining the skills needed to be successful in college and future jobs. Since students must work on typing fluency and other “digital skills,” more schools are questioning whether students really need to learn cursive writing when they will primarily be interfacing with technology. Time also remains an issue. Paige French, an eighth grade history teacher from Texas, says, “With technology being what students need to learn in order to participate in a global world and economy, I'm not sure schools can forfeit the time to teach cursive, unfortunately.”
Some Students Welcome the Change
Students who have had negative experiences with handwriting lessons welcome the transition. CNN quotes Colorado student Kelsie McWilliams, who laments, “I didn’t particularly like [learning cursive] at the time, and honestly, I’m still wondering when all that practice will actually produce something.” Many students today prefer to take class notes and complete work on a computer or mobile device, saving time and sparing them from writer’s cramp.
USA Today reports that most schools still teach cursive writing, but focus more on writing neatly than artistically, with legibility is the primary goal. However, some parents are unhappy about the changes in handwriting instruction and find it concerning that many students do not even use cursive to sign their names on cards or documents. Lisa Smoak, a parent in Florida, decided to take matters into her own hands and have her son practice cursive at home. She questions, “Can you imagine being an adult and not being able to sign your name to a document?”