An out-of-state reader-friend recently reported being flabbergasted by a high school graduation invitation addressed in block lettering.
My friend wondered if etiquette had disappeared from our society. That flipped my curiosity button, resulting in some in-depth research.
In 2012, the new Common Core curriculum went into effect in schools nationwide. It stated, among other things, that cursive style writing was not required, saying 46 states had ditched it.
But there have also been reports that cursive writing is looping back into style in schools across the country for generations of students who have only know texting, keyboarding and printing their words longhand.
In 2016, Alabama and Louisiana passed laws mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states to require it. The South Carolina Department of Education on June 14, 2017, issued a memorandum to school superintendents requiring districts to provide instruction in cursive writing to ensure students can create readable documents through legible cursive handwriting by the end of 5th grade. The Back to Basics in Education Act requires the S.C. education department to assist school districts by providing state-adapted cursive writing student materials.
In fall 2017, New York City schools, which teach 1.1 million students, encouraged the teaching of cursive starting in the third grade. In some cases, students who are seniors and have never been taught cursive, are taking it upon themselves to learn it.
Proponents of penmanship say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing i’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others point out that students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, especially when getting a letter from grandma.
More importantly, it’s just a good skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name. A worker at a voter registration event recently told me that a young man printed out his name in block letters. She pointed out that he had to sign the document. He replied, “That is my signature. I never learned script.” This same poll worker noted that students who can’t read cursive will never be able to read historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence.
Third graders at one school where cursive is being taught beamed as they prepared for their lesson. The 8-year-olds got their markers out, straightened their posture and flexed their wrists. Then it was “swoosh, curl, swoosh, curl’ as the teacher guided them in writing linked- together c’s and a’s. Some of the students prefer it to printing “cause it looks fancy.” Others say it’s fun, "sorta like doodling a little bit.”
Some teachers stressed these benefits:
▪ Develops motor skills. Cursive writing requires a very different skill set from print writing, involves using hand muscles in a different way, which activates a different part of the brain.
▪ Reinforces learning. Students get another opportunity to fully comprehend the alphabet, and get a clearer understanding of how letters are formed.
▪ Working with legal documents. Students are more confident when signing legal documents, which is commonly required, particularly when writing and signing checks.
▪ Helps students with disabilities. Students with dyslexia have a hard time writing in print because many of the letters look similar.
▪ Connects students to the past. Students who are unable to read cursive writing miss out from reading historical documents and letters from relatives that have passed on.
So, should cursive be taught in school?
Many teachers answered a resounding "yes."
Mary Crosby, who teaches kindergartners at Okatie Elementary School and grades pre-K through 5th grade, says students there are taught cursive starting with the third grade.
Although the world is becoming more and more technology dependent, there is something to be said for retaining a part of this classic writing skill.