Children in the Grand Canyon State will soon be writing A-r-i-z-o-n-a as one linked series of letters.
Is a conjoined W-a-s-h-i-n-g-t-o-n far behind?
Arizona will require public schools to teach cursive handwriting as one of a number of new education standards. The requirement was recently approved by that state’s Board of Education.
The move amends Arizona’s current standards, which are based on federal guidelines known as the Common Core.
Cursive, sometimes called script or longhand, was once a staple of education in American schools, starting in third grade. Students would spend hours perfecting letters that were helpfully displayed on posters above a classroom’s blackboard.
But blackboards are now dry-erase boards, and cursive has given way to digital keyboards.
Is cursive even needed anymore?
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, thinks so.
Earlier this year Roach introduced a bill to make teaching cursive mandatory in Washington’s public schools. The bill failed.
The retiring senator was cleaning out her Olympia office Wednesday but took the time to reintroduce the bill.
“We’ve reduced the ability of our students to read the history of their country, to read the writing of their grandparents,” Roach said on Thursday.
Roach became aware of cursive’s disappearance two years ago when she handed her grandson a list of sandwich ingredients she had written in cursive.
“He just sat there,” Roach recalled. “Grandma, I can’t read this,” the boy told Roach. He had never learned to write or read cursive.
Roach said her departure from the state Senate won’t hurt the bill.
“I can take the bill around, get signatures on it,” she said. “I can go into my caucus room. I haven’t even had a chance to say goodbye to them.”
Virginia Berninger, who has conducted research on writing for 30 years and is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, agrees that cursive should make a comeback.
Common Core did away with handwriting after the first grade because of society’s increasing reliance on keyboards, Berninger said.
“The only problem is that they didn’t understand that you still need to teach letter formation,” she said. “It helps you recognize the letters in the words that you read.”
Berninger and other researchers recently published a paper that shows the value of teaching cursive in the third and fourth grades.
“Cursive helps you to write faster and link the letters into word units so you spell better,” Berninger said.
Berninger said only five to 10 minutes of cursive practice a day is needed.
Despite her bullish attitude on handwriting, she’s also solidly behind what used to be called typewriting — now keyboarding.
“In the computer age, we need hybrid writers,” she said.
When students write in cursive, they use only their dominant hand. Keyboarding uses both hands — as long as they’re not hunting and pecking.
“Each hand sends signals to the opposite side of the brain,” Berninger said. Keyboarding develops bilateral hand-brain communication that handwriting does not.
There is one advantage that cursive has over rapidly thumbing “LOL” on a smartphone, she said.
“The main purpose in handwriting is to express ideas.”