Cursive Taking Backseat to Other Skills, Common Core

The Common Core State Standards set out national guidelines for what students should learn and when they should it. Of concern to some people, however, is what’s absent from those guidelines: any mention of handwriting or cursive. Missouri, one of the states which have already adopted Common Core, leaves the decision on whether to teach cursive up to individual school districts.

Stltoday.com reports on the current trend away from teaching penmanship in favor of other modern skills:

The pressure to perform on state standardized tests in reading and math left some teachers in St. Louis Public Schools feeling as if there wasn’t time to focus on handwriting. The district tried to emphasize handwriting in K-5 in the 2009-2010 school year but dropped the requirement for instructional time last year.

While de-emphasis of handwriting skills is perhaps natural in an age where computer skills are considered far more important, the widespread abandonment of its teaching is not universal. Some schools, such as St John’s Lutheran School in Arnold, still teach penmanship every day even if the time found for teaching it can be measured in minutes rather than hours.

Some researchers also believe that the development of handwriting skill is linked to the development of skill in important areas such as math and English. If the developing mind of the student isn’t as stimulated by typing as it would be by handwriting then perhaps handwriting is not so replaceable a skill as often believed.

A member of the Rockwood School District pointed out that:

Grades are the major reason to keep cursive in classrooms. Research indicates that students who develop the discipline to write in legible cursive get better grades as they advance through school.

This issue is really two issues rolled into one; whether cursive should be a skill that US schools preserve amongst their students or whether to follow the lead of UK and Japanese schools and abandon cursive teaching, encouraging printing instead. Printing has the benefit of being more legible and easier for harried teachers to read and mark, while also preserving some handwriting skills amongst the younger generations.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, says it’s natural that in the modern technological age schools will place less emphasis on pre-technological skills like handwriting and cursive.

“We are in a hurry to do away with basic skills because they can be replaced by technology,” Domenech said. “What happens when technology doesn’t work?”