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April 7, 2013

Cursive writing at risk in U.S. schools

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. —

Supporters of the change aren’t concerned. They say that today’s textbooks and other reading material are widely available in electronic form – on computers, tablets, e-readers and smartphones. As for signatures, they predict scanned eyeballs and fingerprints are destined to replace scribbled names. Hand writing, they insist, is simply no longer worth time-consuming lessons.

Among other trends, they point to a recent poll by Xerox Mortgage Services that  found by 2016 half of all home loans will be closed electronically without an actual signature.

Sandra Wilde, a professor of childhood education at Hunter College in New York and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, says cursive writing isn’t an essential skill in the digital era.

“A hundred years ago, you needed to have good penmanship to get a good job,” said Wilde. “Today, you need to know how to use technology. Cursive has fallen by the wayside with the realization that kids just don’t need to have good handwriting anymore.”

Wilde teaches courses on literacy and reading. She’s convinced it’s the content of writing that counts, not the tool used to write. She says the opposition to de-emphasizing penmanship comes from “a pushback against the common core standards.”

Studies show the fading interest in longhand lessons. A National Association of State Boards of Education report released last fall found the average third-grader was getting only 15 minutes of handwriting instruction a day, down from the standard 30 to 45 minutes a generation ago.

“More time is spent teaching a kid how to kick a soccer ball than how to hold a pen and paper,” said Iris Hatfield, a Louisville, Ky., handwriting coach and creator of a new cursive curriculum popular with homeschoolers. “We’re abandoning one of our most basic and important skills.”

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