For most adults, learning cursive writing was part of their elementary school education. Then in 2010, the skill was dropped from the Common Core standards in public elementary schools, and most believed it would die out. But approximately two dozen states have reintroduced it in recent years.
So is cursive writing coming back, or is this just something akin to learning calligraphy in art class?
“All the research cited over the last decades says that cursive instruction is conducive to word and letter association, and can be helpful to students in their language instruction,” Richard Vladovic of the Los Angeles Unified School District said in an interview with a local NBC affiliate. To that end, he introduced a motion — which was approved by the board — asking for a plan to have cursive handwriting be taught in LAUSD classrooms once more. “We owe it to them to teach the fundamentals that can help build lifelong learners, because the bottom line is that this is good for kids,” he said.
Vladovic did not respond to Parentology’s requests for comment.
LAUSD is the second largest public school district in the United States after New York, where “the decision to teach cursive writing is a local school district decision,” State Education Department officials said in a report from the New York State School Boards Association. These seem to be parts of a growing trend. This fall, Texas school children will be taught cursive and required to legibly write it by third grade, joining Alabama, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and other states with similar laws.
The debate about cursive is twofold: How will teachers fit these lessons in while also meeting state and local curriculum requirements, and does learning cursive really help with learning? While there is no easy answer to the first point, some experts argue that the research for the second point has been taken out of context. They argue that learning print writing is as effective as learning cursive, and many times this return to learning cursive is motivated by politics and nostalgia.
However, others believe the research shows that cursive can help students with more than just signing their name.
“This myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is just plain wrong,” Dr. Virginia Berninger, emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, told the New York Times. “We use motor parts of our brain, motor planning, motor control, but what’s very critical is a region of our brain where the visual and language come together, the fusiform gyrus, where visual stimuli actually become letters and written words.”
Dr. Berninger pointed to a 2015 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information that suggested cursive skills conferred advantages in both spelling and composing. She suggested to the Times that children need introductory training in printing, then cursive writing starting in the third grade, and then typing.
And with that, we begin the next great debate: re-introducing typing classes into schools.