The following is a meme currently circulating on social media:
“How do you frighten this new generation? Put them in a room with a rotary phone, an analog watch and a TV with no remote (add rabbit ears for fun). Then leave directions for use in cursive.”
It’s a form of handwriting that fell out of favor when, around 10 years ago, the Common Core State Standards were developed to facilitate educational consistency. Most states adhere to the initiative, which does not require students to learn cursive. Neither do Wisconsin’s Academic Standards.
However, some states do require that cursive be taught. And a group of state legislators is hoping a new bill will make that the case in Wisconsin as well.
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Assembly Bill 459 would require public schools, charter schools and private schools in the state voucher program to teach cursive at the elementary level. “Each elementary school curriculum must include the objective that pupils be able to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade,” reads the measure.
The bill was introduced by a bipartisan groups of representatives that includes Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona.
“By getting students to learn cursive, it impacts other parts of the brain,” James told Leader-Telegram reporter Chris Vetter. “I think it’s an awesome opportunity for kids to learn how to write and spell. It’s alarming my own seventh-grader doesn’t know how to spell well. It’s an important element we lose touch of.”
Studies have shown that taking handwritten notes, print or cursive, can boost retention. Cursive also can be faster and some contend it improves hand-eye coordination.
Heather Grant, Manz Elementary School principal in the Eau Claire school district, said cursive is already part of the school’s curriculum.
“We know for some students, it’s more efficient,” Grant told Vetter. “For students, it’s often a smoother motion. I certainly think there is a value in learning to write in cursive. That physical act of writing in cursive allows them to be more creative.”
Proponents of teaching cursive also say students need to learn the craft to be able to read historical documents or other writings of the past.
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Dan Rossmiller, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, told the Wisconsin State Journal his group had not taken a position on the bill.
“Is that something employers are demanding their prospective employees learn? I don’t know,” he said. “I would think they probably would be more interested in whether they can keyboard or not.”
In a highly unscientific, informal survey of our newsroom employees, only one used cursive when taking notes and even that was more of a print/cursive mashup style of writing. All used cursive for their signatures which, for many of us, are illegible.
“I’m not opposed to the bill, but it isn’t even on the short list of what we should be dealing with, when it comes to education,” state Rep. Jodi Emerson told Vetter.
The prospects for AB 459 being signed into law are unclear this early in the game. Arguments will be put forth claiming its merit.
We’re just not convinced the time and resources put into such instruction couldn’t be put to better use elsewhere in elementary school curricula.