Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fewer Schools Teach Cursive Writing

Mrs. Kelli Davis, a parent in West Virginia, was dismayed when she saw her eighth-grade daughter’s childlike signature on a form the child brought home from school. She said, "It looks like a little kid’s signature” (not an eighth-grade student). The daughter explained to her mother she had not been required to write anything in cursive in years.

Mrs. Davis then contacted the school, which is the largest school system in West Virginia. The superintendent of elementary education told Mrs. Davis that cursive writing is still taught in Kanawha County schools, but only in the 3rd grade. Hours formerly spent practicing the loops and curves of cursive writing in what used to be called “penmanship” classes have given way to developing technology skills teachers think are more necessary for the 21st century. Students are doing more and more of their work on computers in schools, including writing. Beginning in 2011, 8th and 11th graders will compose the writing test portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress on a computer.

Another educator said that handwriting is increasingly something people only do to jot down notes for themselves. She suggested that students accustomed to using text messages, e-mail and word processors to communicate with others have difficulty seeing the value of spending hours practicing cursive writing. “They’re writing, they’re composing with these tools at home, and to have school look so different is not the best idea.”

Not everyone agrees that cursive writing is no longer a useful skill worth mastering. Many believe cursive writing is a lifelong skill that is culturally valuable. Others point out that most schoolwork, from taking notes to writing essays, is still done by hand. “Everybody talks about how sometime in the future every kid’s going to have a keyboard, but that isn’t really true.

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