The Common Core Standards Initiative is an effort that establishes a single set of clear educational standards for all students from kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Forty-five states have adopted the curriculum so far.
However, one part of writing that is not currently mandated is cursive writing. Out of the 45 Common Core states, 41 do not require their public schools to teach cursive reading or writing.
Common core does not focus its efforts on handwriting, as its priority is computer use and keyboarding skills. Businesses today rely primarily on computer communication, so these skills are essential for almost any career a student eventually will pursue.
But does cursive writing have to die out completely? What about the ability to sign your name to a contract, read Grandma’s favorite recipes, or send a personal greeting card or thank you note?
Cursive writing has been de-emphasized in schools for some time. In response to No Child Left Behind laws, many schools have already narrowed their curricula most to the subjects being tested. There is simply no more classroom time available to teach cursive writing.
Some states are going above and beyond Common Core and reintroducing legislation to bring back cursive writing to public schoolchildren. These include North and South Carolina, Indiana, and Idaho.
There are definite benefits to learning the skill. Jeffrey Mims Jr, an educator, says “I think it’s a basic element of students’ control and peace of mind. You pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re writing in that format.” Other experts note that cursive helps coordination and motor skills. Small children develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and other brain and memory function through cursive writing. It helps improve literacy.
Even if you never write again in your life because of iPads, smartphones, and computers, fine motor skill techniques are essential for those who will in the future use their hands – such as surgeons or painters.
Kathy Mears, the National Catholic Education Association’s executive director of elementary schools says, “I would not drop it, because I do think it’s important for the development of children, but…I realize we’ve given teachers more to teach but not more time.”
There are many people on both sides of the debate. An online poll by Harris Interactive in June showed that 79% of adults and 68% of kids think cursive writing should be taught. One respondent said, “I don’t think it’s life-altering, that you won’t survive in the world if you can’t read cursive.” But it is still an important skill – to be able to express yourself in writing.
“I don’t think we’re in a world that is completely cursive free at this point,” says Tessa Maguire, a third grade teacher from Indiana.