by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
In 2013, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation that required teachers to teach cursive handwriting to elementary school students. Since then, other states have followed suit.
But cursive writing is not part of the Common Core State Standards, which North Carolina adopted in 2010 and revised this year. Thanks to Education Week, we finally know why.
So why didn’t the common-core writers include cursive? In a recent interview, Sue Pimentel, one of the lead writers of the English/language arts standards, explained that the decision was about priorities—and that learning to use technology took precedence.
“We thought that more and more of student communications and adult communications are via technology. And knowing how to use technology to communicate and to write was most critical for students,” she said. “The idea is you have to pick things to put in there. …. It really was a discussion.”
That is a lame reason to omit cursive writing in the standards. Students require minimum instruction on using technology to communicate because they do it CONSTANTLY. Moreover, the tools used to communicate via technology are intuitive, so they are skills that are easy for most to acquire.
Anyway, the author points out that the research on handwriting suggests that it produces multiple benefits for students.
According to Steve Graham, a professor of educational leadership and innovation at Arizona State University, who has studied writing instruction for more than 30 years, research has shown benefits for teaching and practicing handwriting generally.
Being able to handwrite quickly makes it easier for people to get their ideas on paper. Students who struggle with handwriting “may have to devote other cognitive resources to this low-level task, which takes away from other higher-level aspects of writing like thinking about how you’re going to organize a text,” he said.
Having good handwriting also helps students in school, where teacher surveys have shown the majority of writing is still done on paper. “A reasonable amount of research suggests if your handwriting is not very legible, people will form opinions about the quality of what you say,” said Graham. “The more legible paper will get higher scores for writing than the less legible paper of the same quality.”
There’s also some research that suggests people remember things better when taking notes by hand, rather than with a word processor.
The bottom line is that Republican legislators did the “write” (ha ha) thing.