ELLICOTT CITY: For third-grade pupils at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School in suburban Ellicott City, an hour’s drive from Washington, learning to write joined-up letters is a no-brainer.
“I like writing it sometimes. It’s kind of fun,” said Oren Dubensky after he and his fellow eight-year-olds mastered their first cursive letter — “I” — after six weeks of perfecting basic pencil strokes.
“It’s like, you don’t need to do normal letters anymore,” agreed classmate Sophia Spence. “You can do fancy letters, instead of just normal letters.”
But outside the classroom, grown-up Americans are debating whether the nation’s children should be studying cursive at all, in an era of swift and profound technological change.
Common Core, the kindergarten-to-high school standard curriculum shared by 45 of the 50 states (the outliers include Texas and Alaska), is silent on the subject of cursive, also known as longhand or joined-up writing.
It merely calls for the teaching of block-letter handwriting, as well as “keyboarding” — the skill formerly known as typing that many contend is far more relevant today than scrawling across a sheet of paper.
“In the United States, relatively few people use cursive,” said Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Southern California, who sees “no compelling reason” for cursive instruction to remain on the curriculum.
“In other countries, if everyone writes in cursive, it would make less sense to stop teaching it,” Polikoff said. “Here, cursive is already on the way out just via momentum, it seems to me.”
“Everyone is typing, everyone is texting, so cursive is kind of thought of as a lost art,” added Bernadette Lucas, principal of Melrose Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, where the school board is spending $30m (¤22m) to provide Apple iPads for its students. AFP