Public schools are facing a lot of challenges today. Trying to finding the best way to provide a quality education in a world where information of dubious quality is in unlimited supply and the future is far from certain is tough. But never mind all that: Arizona just wants to make sure students can write fancy.
The state's Board of Education adopted a new set of curriculum standards Monday that mandate instruction in cursive writing for all students. The addition of cursive was among a handful of changes added to the controversial Common Core standards the state previously had embraced.
“This is a proud day for Arizona,” state education Superintendent Diane Douglas told local TV station KPHO. “Has everything changed? No. Should everything have changed? No.” It's that sort of logic that makes people feel confident that a good choice has been made.
For confused foreigners, cursive is a style of handwriting traditionally taught in American schools and then traditionally forgotten the moment teachers start expecting assignments to be printed out—a moment that seems to arrive earlier and earlier every year. Its apparent lack of lasting utility has led to a hot debate over whether or not it still has a place in public education, a question decided district-by-district in states that haven't passed penmanship laws. A Google News search for "Should cursive still be taught" reveals more than 4,300 articles on the subject. I obviously couldn't sample all of them, but it's a safe bet that they were all printed in standard, web-safe fonts and not written in cursive.
The argument against cursive boils down to the idea that it doesn't really serve much of a purpose in a digital world and would be time better spent on other subjects. Those reasons are why cursive isn't in the Common Core standards to begin with.
A lot has been written on whether or not research shows learning cursive is beneficial to the learning process. But when states choose to mandate it, the arguments are very rarely couched in science. Rep. Kim Hendren, the Republican sponsor of an Arkansas law that mandated cursive instruction, told the Baxter Bulletin last March that he wanted the law so his granddaughter would be able to sign her name in cursive.
I was curious about the long-term utility of cursive, so I asked the Fusion newsroom to all use their best cursive to write a sample sentence. Several of the writers responded to me it had been so long since they had written in cursive, it took them several tries to produce something legible. To protect identities, I've identified each writer by an anagram of their name
Major Nick Sink
Regenerate Uh Kirk
Wow. It's a good thing we have computers.