The Kloiber Foundation
Children and Technology in Action
Should students be learning cursive handwriting? That’s a question Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt seeks to answer.
In May of 2017, Senate Bill 1 was approved, and outlines a new schedule for evaluating all academic standards. Under this new bill, each year will focus on a few content areas, with a review of those standards every 6 years. The 2017-18 school year begins the process with Language Arts and Mathematics, and cursive handwriting is a topic of concern for lawmakers. When asked his opinion on why he believes cursive was so highly debated, Pruitt said, “All our major historical documents are written in cursive. That was, I think, a big impetus for that.” This sentiment was echoed by many other advocates of the movement, who also chimed in with additional support, saying that students would be unable to sign legal documents properly without cursive education.
Fayette County Public School Office.
Kentucky isn’t alone in looking to add cursive to state education standards. At least 15 states require students to learn cursive currently in addition to the Common Core handwriting standards, which only require printing for grades K-5. A study by Dr. William Klemm is often cited as showing the importance of cursive to brain development. According to the study, there seems to be a similar effect in brain development and activity when a student learns cursive as when they learn a musical instrument. With “cursive writing, compared to printing . . . the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical and the visual-recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation.”
When asked his opinion on why he believes cursive was so highly debated, Pruitt said, “All our major historical documents are written in cursive. That was, I think, a big impetus for that.”
When the Common Core standards were being created, the primary concern wasn’t whether or not to teach handwriting, but what style would best serve the students. With the majority of studies showing a clear advantage in information retained when using a pen and paper vs. typing on a keyboard, the debate centered around teaching one or both style of handwriting. To date, no studies have shown a clear advantage to the use of cursive over print, either in information retained or writing speed. As a matter of practicality, Sue Pimentel, one of the lead writers of the Language Arts standards, cites feedback from teachers concerned with how much more instructional time cursive handwriting occupies. With technology being so important in our current environment, and no indication that this trend will go anywhere but up, what was ultimately decided was that learning to use technology to communicate and write was critical. Due to the limited instructional time in each school day, it was decided that one style of handwriting was sufficient, and printing was it. This is not to say that cursive was discouraged; on the contrary, Pimentel states that adding it to the State requirements is “very legitimate.”
It will be interesting to see what the Kentucky Department of Education discovers in their evaluation of Language Arts standards during the 2017-18 school year, and if that translates into Kentucky students learning cursive again.