SPECIAL REPORT: Cursive in the Classroom - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Cursive in the Classroom

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With mobile devices playing such a major role in our lives, some educators are concerned that handwriting has become a lost art - especially cursive writing.

But not to worry.        

State law now requires teachers to set aside time for students to work on their handwriting.

For years, a person's cursive handwriting was linked to their identity.   A teacher could look at a paper and say, 'Oh, that's Billy's homework.  I can tell by the “y.” Or Gloria makes her “e's” like that.’

Nowadays, students express themselves in emojis and hashtags.

Most everyone is texting and tweeting and typing.

How many of you have cellphones? How many of you prefer texting to typing?

"I think texting is better than writing,” said Taylor Sutton. “Because I think it’s faster and you get to use your thumb, but cursive takes a little bit of time."

“Now that technology is advancing and we can bring our laptops everywhere and take notes on our computers and we can text on our phones, we're not writing so much anymore,” said Mariah Riggenbach.

But before we stop putting our John Hancock on documents, state lawmakers have written a law that actually revives cursive writing.   And historical documents like the one John Hancock signed are the reason behind it. 

The law mandates schools take time to teach handwriting.

“The state's made the bill but as far as how districts choose to do it, we have the autonomy to choose which resources we would use, which grade level," said Marcy Burdette Steele.

So what's a teacher to do?

For answers, we turn to the teacher of teachers: Bradley University education guru Dr. Cecile Arquette. 

Like her handwriting, "I might do a little printing.  I might do a little bit of cursive mixed in,” she has mixed feelings about cursive writing. 

First, teaching it is doable:  

"When people talk about it being an unfunded mandate, it takes no money whatsoever to teach handwriting," said Arquette.

But on the other hand--the reason behind the mandate--that we need it so our children can read historical documents---is a little zany---with a capital “z.”

"Very easy to say, if people today are able to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, there is always going to be someone who is able to read historical documents,” said Arquette.

So like the civilization that flowed out of the Nile Valley, the flow of cursive writing, however beautiful and inspiring will one day come to pass.   

"As adults, we were taught cursive because it was faster.  It was more efficient because you didn't lift your pen up off the page so they were trying to help us sign our name more efficiently and more quickly,” said Arquette.

"And the truth, we type faster, we text faster, so if that's the reason cursive handwriting was being taught, we have surpassed the speed of being able to write quickly by hand by many times because of the electronic devices that we use,” said Arquette. “We don't have chips in our arm--it's coming, but until then it's important for people to be able to pick up a writing instrument and express themselves.”

“What's more important to me as an educator of future teachers is that my students who will be teaching understand the importance of teaching legible handwriting and you start with print,” she said.

So for now, cursive is in.

"I like it better than print because with print people can barely read my name, but in cursive people can read it better,” said Karley Poor. "There is a loveliness to the connectivity of cursive letters, but it's something that’s we'll just to have to see what happens because I honestly think that it's on its way out.

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