Written by by Lexi Yiu, CNN
In the United States, cursive isn’t yet a death sentence: The US federal government has been educating teachers in the importance of proficiency in cursive handwriting in elementary and middle schools.
According to the 2019 edition of “Teaching to the Test: The ELA Book”, which tracks Common Core standards and provides hands-on lesson plans for the teaching of English language arts in grades K-3, students should learn to “promote and develop their own abilities to tell a story by hand or by voice.” By the fourth grade, students should master simple rule sequences to sing, sing along or indicate time or place.
The book cautions that cursive should “extend beyond the simple rules of sequencing and the use of dots and horizontal lines,” and “help students to develop the vocabulary and vocabulary of comprehension.”
Overall, during the 2011-2012 school year, 91% of state English language arts assessments indicated that students had not achieved proficiency in their cursive writing. In 2016, the National Council of Teachers of English released a report outlining what students learn when they’re taught cursive. That study found that cursive taught in kindergarten through second grade is expected to help students “describe their own experience, relationships, and understanding with and of others.” By the third grade, the same skill is expected to help students use appropriate vocabulary and reasoning skills to present their thoughts as a narrative, the study said.
Despite all that, the state of cursive in the US has long been a source of debate: Since 1970, when cursive learning was mandatory in California, 59% of schools have eliminated cursive in favor of other teaching methods, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report.
Cursive as a teaching tool, the report said, “has become a thing of the past in most places, replaced by reading, writing, and math.”
Has cursive “gone the way of the dodo?”
Even cursive typing is on the decline.
“With the introduction of Internet usage and the use of keyboards by a much larger majority of adults today, students are no longer encouraged to perform preformed work as a matter of course,” the Pew report said. “Instead, the emphasis is placed more on standardized tests that measure performance.”
But, the number of print media, including phonebooks, newspapers and magazines, and even other hand-written notes are on the rise. According to a Pew Research Center report released last year, the number of print media products shared by American adults rose from $169 billion in 2014 to $176 billion in 2016. More than half of American adults also carry handwritten notes or e-mails in their phones, the report said.
In the US, cursive handwriting is no longer mandated in schools, but is a strength tested with an ACT or SAT exam. The standard for proficient handwriting across the United States and in the US Reading and Mathematics assessments is to have basic handwriting skills and the ability to count to 20 (the basics are expected to progress to read-write-spelling).
The growing popularity of writing apps like Padmapper or SwiftKey and growing computer skills amongst the general public are cited by many as factors that have led to the decline of hand-written note-taking.
For the younger generation, many now favor text messaging, texting and even social media over writing. But the study found that three-quarters of US readers between the ages of 8 and 18 prefer to read printed material, especially the printed word of photographs.