Don’t take cursive out of Colorado curriculums

As school starts again in Fall 2012, I’m reposting this article from my blog This Writing Life. This article was originally published in the Arvada Press and affiliated newspapers, and is reprinted here with permission.

Let’s talk cursive. Better yet, let’s write cursive.

What’s that? You don’t remember how to write cursive? You can’t read cursive handwriting?

Oh, that’s right. The Colorado State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, standards that don’t consider cursive handwriting important to students in a global economy in the 21st century. Cursive is becoming as foreign as hieroglyphics.

This scenario is not as farfetched as it might sound. Colorado is one of 44 states at this writing that has adopted Common Core State Standards and has already set about eliminating cursive handwriting instruction from its public schools. Common Core State Standards compare educational proficiency from state to state with a mission to provide an understanding of what students are expected to learn.

Many Colorado private schools, however, including charter schools and the Archdiocese of Denver, have either staunchly retained or refocused on cursive handwriting as a necessary skill for writing, reading, and learning.

Neurologists are weighing in with what happens to a child’s brain during the process of becoming literate, and how the sequencing of symbols contributes to their visual recognition and learning of letters.

The debate rages.

Of course, the only reason there is a debate at all is the exponential explosion of keyboards. Instead of learning cursive, students are required to become proficient in keyboard use. The administration at Denver Public Schools, for example, wants their teachers to devote the most classroom time to what’s emphasized in standards. That sounds reasonable, but what’s wrong is that cursive is no longer a part of those standards.

Surely, there are few who still doubt the well-researched and well-documented connections that writers make with their brains when they put pens to paper, the kinesthetic movements so simpatico to our language comprehension.

That’s not the problem.

The problem is that understanding what others have committed to paper throughout the history of the English language is a competency that’s not going away any time soon.

We don’t have to take away one skill simply to introduce another.

With standardization initiatives, achievement competitions, and ever-deepening pressure on schools to do more with less, scaling back on cursive to accommodate more technical skills may seem innovative…at the moment. However, cursive handwriting—still considered an art—doesn’t have to go the way of the other arts in public schools, out the doors with the music, the painting, the dance.

Why would we want to eliminate another skill that will serve our kids well in their lives and their careers to come? Let’s not take away their ability to read the archival materials of their history—from the primary source documents. Let’s not strand our future generations without a choice of mental tools to read and write the English language.

As we teach spelling, we write our words in cursive. As we teach geography, we travel to places with exotic-sounding names written in cursive.

As we teach history, especially, we integrate the whole of the English language that connects us to the conversations that founded our country, and that has made writing English in cursive a global language for the 21st century and beyond. 

A little more about the author… 

Andrea Doray is a writer from the Denver area who often sends handwritten letters and thank-you notes and would be heartbroken to find out that people could no longer read them. Visit her profile on LinkedIn.

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