Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

April 7, 2013

Cursive writing being erased?

Students may not be required to learn the skill.

Indianapolis — Not far from State Sen. Jean Leising’s capitol office is a museum that prominently displays documents penned by Abraham Lincoln. It’s a favorite educational destination for Indiana schoolchildren in the state where the 16th president grew up.

But Leising worries Lincoln’s elegant script may soon be indecipherable to young visitors because schools in Indiana and elsewhere are now allowed to drop cursive writing instruction under new national teaching standards crafted for the digital age.

Leising is convinced it’s a dangerous trend. To preserve penmanship, she has championed a bill to mandate cursive writing courses in all Indiana elementary schools.

“If kids aren’t taught how to write it, they won’t be able to read it,” said Leising. “So, in a sense, we’ll be creating a new kind of illiteracy.”

The use of cursive writing has been fading from society since the arrival of the computer keyboard. Advocates of longhand blame the so-called common core education standards for hastening its demise. Debate over the issue has pitted teachers against teachers, and a fear by historians we are raising a generation of handwriting illiterates.  

Rolled out in 2010 by the National Governors Association and adopted by 45 states for implementation by next year, the standards set uniform expectations for what students need to learn to succeed in the technology-centric 21st century.

Those standards include proficiency in computer keyboarding by the fourth grade, but make no mention of the need for cursive writing ability, even though it has been integral to American culture since the nation’s founding.

That lack of mention has moved schools to abandon resources and courses once devoted to teaching penmanship – much to the dismay of those who say the curriculum change will eventually lead to an inability to comprehend both historic and contemporary handwritten documents, including identifying signatures.

Supporters of the change aren’t concerned. They say that today’s textbooks and other reading material are widely available in electronic form – on computers, tablets, e-readers and smartphones. As for signatures, they predict scanned eyeballs and fingerprints are destined to replace scribbled names. Handwriting, they insist, is simply no longer worth time-consuming lessons.

Among other trends, they point to a recent poll by Xerox Mortgage Services that found by 2016 half of all home loans will be closed electronically without an actual signature.

Sandra Wilde, a professor of childhood education at Hunter College in New York and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, says cursive writing isn’t an essential skill in the digital era.

“A hundred years ago, you needed to have good penmanship to get a good job,” said Wilde. “Today, you need to know how to use technology. Cursive has fallen by the wayside with the realization that kids just don’t need to have good handwriting anymore.”

Wilde teaches courses on literacy and reading. She’s convinced it’s the content of writing that counts, not the tool used to write. She says the opposition to de-emphasizing penmanship comes from “a pushback against the common core standards.”

A fading focus

Studies show fading interest in longhand lessons. A National Association of State Boards of Education report released last fall found the average third-grader was getting only 15 minutes of handwriting instruction a day, down from the standard 30 to 45 minutes a generation ago.

“More time is spent teaching a kid how to kick a soccer ball than how to hold a pen and paper,” said Iris Hatfield, a Louisville, Ky., handwriting coach and creator of a new cursive curriculum popular with homeschoolers. “We’re abandoning one of our most basic and important skills.”

Advocates for cursive writing have taken their fight to the political arena. In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in Idaho and North Carolina have authored legislation that would compel schools to devote time to penmanship.

“Our children can’t write a simple sentence,” said North Carolina State Sen. Pat Hurley, sponsor of a mandatory cursive writing measure. “They think printing their name is their signature.”

Last year, in adopting the common core standards, boards of education in Alabama, California and Georgia included a cursive writing requirement for their schools. Massachusetts repealed its cursive requirement but also adopted language that says fourth-graders should be able to “write legibly by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.”

In Utah, state officials agreed to study the issue; Kansas educators adopted a policy that encourages, but doesn’t require, schools to teach cursive.

“The debate is national,” said Steve Berlin, spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Last September, the association issued a policy statement to provide state school boards with unbiased research and analysis on the issue.

Titled “The Handwriting Debate,” it acknowledged the impact of digital technology on writing and reading: “[W]ith the proliferation of personal computers in the 1990s and smartphones and tablets in the 21st century, many educators and policymakers have been questioning the usefulness of spending ever-more-valuable class time teaching handwriting to students who have been born into — and will live and work in — a digital world.”

But the policy also acknowledged that “new research has been emerging that points to the educational value of handwriting in ways that go well beyond being able to read cursive or take notes without benefit of a handheld device.”

That research suggests the practice and process of handwriting may improve students’ cognitive and motor skills development, enhance their literacy and help them retain what they’ve learned.

Writing and the brain

Indiana University neuroscientist Karin Harman James has studied the effect of printing and writing by hand as well as keyboarding in the development of children’s brains, using imaging technology to document how significant changes occur in the brain. The research led her to believe teaching young children how to write by hand is critical to how they eventually learn to read.

“These kinds of findings point to there being something really important about printing and potentially also about cursive,” said James. “They’re both fine motor skills, so they might be equally important in understanding cognitive development in children.”

Supporters of cursive skills argue there’s also a critical handwriting connection to the adult brain. Since a person’s handwriting becomes distinctive with age, they point out that a person’s penmanship is a symbol of their personality.

Theresa Ortega is a certified handwriting analyst who helped launch Campaign for Cursive, a social media movement that promotes cursive writing in schools. She maintains a person’s penmanship “can tell you a lot.”

Having analyzed hundreds of high school and college students’ handwriting, Ortega says she can see an impact from the fall off in cursive writing instruction. She fears a keyboarding-only generation of students will be more introverted and less able to express themselves creatively.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t use all those digital tools,” Ortega said. “I just think we need the connectivity of cursive writing to equalize the force of technology.”

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana state reporter for CNHI. You can contact her at Maureen.Hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Kokomo man charged with sexual misconduct with a minor Kokomo police arrested a 20-year-old man Tuesday afternoon on a warrant charging him with sexual misconduct with a minor involving a 14-year-old girl.Officers arrested Malachi Ely at 4:38 p.m. at his residence in the 500 block of South Goyer Road on

    July 24, 2014

  • Howard County rejected for state preschool pilot Howard County is not among the five counties selected for Indiana’s new preschool voucher pilot.Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will roll out the program in 2015. Eighteen counties, includi

    July 24, 2014

  • Peru dam Who should fix the dams? PERU — Who has jurisdiction over six dams located in the Hidden Hills housing addition just north of Peru, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources or the people who own the land?It’s a question with a lot riding on it — more than $1.5 million, in

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kokomo Airport runway extension nearing completion After more than a decade of waiting, a runway extension project that will allow the Kokomo Municipal Airport to attract new business will soon be prepared for takeoff.The project, which will extend the airport’s main runway from 5,200 feet to 6,000 f

    July 24, 2014

  • NWS KT 072314 Serena Youth Center pic Serena Youth Center to offer safe haven for young women

    Young women in Kokomo in need of security and additional support will soon have a new place to call home as plans move forward to open the Serena Youth Center. On Tuesday, Coordinated Assistance Ministries Inc. closed on a property for the youth cent

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Residents organize outreach for fire victims Josh and Courtney Justice lost everything they owned Tuesday afternoon after a fire ravaged their home in Indian Heights. The community has been reaching out to help replace some of what was destroyed. Just hours after the blaze displaced the Justice

    July 23, 2014

  • Man jailed on sex charge Kokomo police arrested a 20-year-old man Tuesday afternoon on a warrant charging him with sexual misconduct with a minor involving a 14-year-old. Officers arrested Malachi Ely at 4:38 p.m. at his residence in the 500 block of South Goyer Road on the

    July 23, 2014

  • Indiana Veterans Hall of Fame seeks nominations INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new hall of fame for Indiana military veterans is seeking nominations for its first class of inductees. The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame says it expects to induct the first honorees around Veterans Day at Fort Benjamin

    July 23, 2014

  • Lawmakers approve pair of new license plates INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A panel of state lawmakers approved new license plates recognizing the Indy 500 and Abraham Lincoln under a new system clamping down on the number of special license plates on the road. Members of the Legislature's transportation

    July 23, 2014

  • Ivy Tech job fair Jobs for the future With an aging workforce, Duke Energy Corp. finds itself in a precarious position.The primary electrical power provider for Kokomo and adjacent counties, Duke Energy is the first line of defense when residents are left in the dark after storms and oth

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries