When Common Core standards were released in 2010, most states cut back handwriting and cursive instruction to just kindergarten and 1st grade, focusing instead on typing.
Now, over a decade later, states such as Texas are bringing cursive back.
But as society swiftly advances into an electronic age of digital currency and artificial intelligence, is cursive still relevant?
Jake Weidmann, one of just nine Master Penmen in the world, argues that learning penmanship isn’t just about creating a product, it’s about personal development.
“The reason why you educate yourself is for self-development,” Weidmann said in a recent interview. “It’s not just to turn something out that is quickly executed. It’s like, ‘If the machine can do it for you, you might as well abdicate it to the machine.’
“That’s all well and good for the sake of the machine but what does that actually do for your own personal development?” he asked. “How does that change the way that you think, the way that you function, and the way that you perceive the world?”
Indeed, handwriting generally and cursive in particular play a huge role in helping young children develop their all-important literacy skills.
“In the earliest grades, learning writing letters reinforces and improves the learning of phonic concepts, and having students write letters while learning letter-sound correspondences supports both the decoding and spelling of words,” said Joan Sedita, founder of Keys to Literacy.
In other words, writing helps students combine multiple concepts to expedite their learning.
Research has found that children who are taught cursive become better readers, writers, and even better spellers.
Similarly, other experts report that cursive handwriting activates certain regions of the brain that facilitate memory and the encoding of new information, thereby priming the brain “with optimal conditions for learning.”
And the physical motion of forming letters can help too.
In a TedTalk, Weidmann said that brain scans done on children learning cursive “found that the different parts of the brain which are engaged are similar to those that adults typically use when writing and doing higher reasoning. [But] the screen went blank when the kids were doing typing because it didn’t involve the same type of tactile movement.”
Now, both red and blue states are recognizing the universal value of cursive as a tool for building literacy.
The Utah Board of Education has also added cursive back into the its state core standards.