Newspaper article News Sentinel

Local Voices: Gregory Linton: Writing Skills More Important Than Learning Cursive

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Local Voices: Gregory Linton: Writing Skills More Important Than Learning Cursive

Article excerpt

The Common Core State Standards have generated a controversy over the role of cursive writing in elementary education.

The new standards prescribe that, by the end of fourth grade, students should "demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting." The standards do not require the acquisition of cursive writing skills, but neither do they prohibit teaching them.

In response, some states such as North Carolina, Georgia and California have added cursive writing to their educational requirements. The education commissioner of Florida recently recommended a similar policy.

Evidence indicates the declining use of cursive writing. A 2007 study by Vanderbilt University revealed that schools devote only 15 minutes a day to cursive instruction. A 2012 survey of handwriting teachers at a conference found that only 37 percent wrote in cursive, 8 percent printed and 55 percent used a hybrid of both. Last summer, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation eliminated its handwriting analysis unit because the increased use of technology has led to a decline in handwriting.

Critics view cursive writing as an outdated skill that wastes valuable class time. A century ago, calligraphy was taught in schools until educators realized that it was no longer necessary to function in society or the workplace. For similar reasons, cursive writing is headed for extinction.

Some of the arguments offered on behalf of cursive writing are implausible and unsubstantiated. For example, the grandiose claim that cursive writing promotes brain development is often asserted with no citation of research to support it. The scant research sometimes cited actually compares handwriting with keyboarding, not cursive writing with manuscript.

Steve Graham of Vanderbilt University examined research that compared the effectiveness of teaching manuscript writing with cursive writing and judged the results inconclusive. Defenders of cursive writing point out that SAT test-takers who write their essays in cursive score higher on the exam than those who write in print, but as every researcher knows, correlation does not prove causation. …

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