Education Editorial: Cursive writing

The Washington Post reported this week on a new survey about cursive writing. A school supplies company, Really Good Stuff, asked 612 kindergarten through fifth grade teachers from 48 states whether or not they taught cursive writing. While the general perception is that this skill is no longer taught, three in four second and third grade teachers indicated that they continued to teach cursive writing to their students. These teachers are typically including instruction that they feel is important despite the fact that 45 states and the District of Colombia have adopted the federally inspired Common Core that makes no reference to cursive writing.

Many researchers have observed that cursive writing has been de-emphasized since the 1970s. However, this recent survey, as well as one conducted by Vanderbilt in 2007, confirm that a majority of elementary teachers still believe that cursive writing is important to teach.

Why would this be the case? Why do so many teachers take precious classroom time to offer instruction in an area where there is no standardized testing, no relationship to accreditation, and no reference on report cards that go home to parents? In the 1960s and 1970s many classrooms focused on creative writing. In the 1980s there was inventive spelling and new math. From these movements we produced young people who couldn't make change, sound out words, or write an expository sentence. Cursive writing may not be about the delivery of language in any particular style, it may simply be about teaching young people the importance of structure.

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