A generation of children who learned to write with their thumbs are now going old school in California
Teacher of grades 4 to 6 at Orangethorpe Elementary School, Pamela Keller, teaches students cursive writing at Orangethorpe Elementary School, in Fullerton, California, on. January 23. Photo: Reuters/MIKE BLAKE
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Shunned in computer age, cursive makes a comeback in California

26 Comments
By Daniel Trotta

A generation of children who learned to write on screens is now going old school.

Starting this year, California grade school students are required to learn cursive handwriting, after the skill had fallen out of fashion in the computer age.

Assembly Bill 446, sponsored by former elementary school teacher Sharon Quirk-Silva and signed into law in October, requires handwriting instruction for the 2.6 million Californians in grades one to six, roughly ages 6 to 12, and cursive lessons for the "appropriate" grade levels - generally considered to be third grade and above.

Experts say learning cursive improves cognitive development, reading comprehension and fine motor skills, among other benefits. Some educators also find value in teaching children to read historic documents and family letters from generations past.

At Orangethorpe Elementary School in Fullerton, about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Los Angeles, fourth- to sixth-grade teacher Pamela Keller said she was already teaching cursive before the law took effect Jan. 1.

Some kids complain about the difficulty, to which Keller has a ready answer.

"We tell them, well, it's going to make you smarter, it's going to make some connections in your brain, and it's going to help you move to the next level. And then they get excited because students want to be smarter. They want to learn," Keller said.

While teaching a cursive lesson this week, Keller dished out gentle tips to her students such as "Lighten up a little - do it really gently ... An eraser is our best friend ... That loop is wonderful. I love that loop."

During a recent visit to the school library, Keller said one student grew animated upon seeing an image of the U.S. Constitution, written in 1787, remarking, "It's cursive!"

Several of Keller's students acknowledged the subject was difficult, especially the letter Z, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

"I love it, because I just feel it's fancier how to write, and it's fun to learn new letters," said Sophie Guardia, a 9-year-old in the fourth grade.

In teacher Nancy Karcher's class, the reaction from third-graders ranged from "It's fun" and "It's pretty" to "Now I can read my mom's writing" and "It's for my secrets."

CURSIVE COMEBACK

As computer keyboards and tablets proliferated, cursive faded. In 2010, the national Common Core education standards were published to help prepare students for college. Cursive was left out.

"They stopped teaching kids how to form any letters at all. Teacher colleges are not preparing teachers to teach handwriting," said Kathleen Wright, founder of the Handwriting Collective, a nonprofit promoting handwriting instruction.

But cursive is making a comeback. California became the 22nd state to require cursive handwriting and the 14th to enact a cursive instruction bill since 2014, according to Lauren Gendill of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Five states have introduced cursive bills so far in 2024.

Leslie Zoroya, project director for reading language arts at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said research has shown that learning cursive promotes several skills that link together and improve childhood development.

"You're using different neural networks when you're doing cursive rather than printing. And so it's creating those pathways in your brain. It also helps with the retention of information, how letters are formed. As you're creating the letter, you're thinking about the sound that letter makes and how does it connect to the next letter," Zoroya said.

Quirk-Silva said she was inspired to sponsor the bill after a 2016 meeting with the Jesuit-educated former Governor Jerry Brown, who, when he learned the recently re-elected assembly member was a teacher, immediately told her: "You need to bring back cursive writing."

Technically, cursive was still alive. California's standards had cursive writing goals, but Quirk-Silva said instruction was flagging and inconsistent.

"The hope of the legislation is that by the time students leave sixth grade, they would be able to read and write it," Quirk-Silva said.

© Thomson Reuters 2024.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.


26 Comments
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You can improve cursive by limiting screens and banning phones in schools. This needs to be everywhere.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I'm not convinced based on the cognitive development and motor skills argument. Lots of types of learning are good for this, so you have to weigh the time required and benefits of both.

Experts say learning cursive improves cognitive development, reading comprehension and fine motor skills, among other benefits.

-13 ( +0 / -13 )

fallaffelToday 06:55 am JST

I'm not convinced based on the cognitive development and motor skills argument. Lots of types of learning are good for this, so you have to weigh the time required and benefits of both.

It's also important for not being a screen bound dimwit. I would think you would be behind that.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

So does art and many other things. My point is they should think out what the real benefits are compared with other types of learning. I guess it's the historical/artistic aspect of it rather than opening new "neural pathways".

It's also important for not being a screen bound dimwit. I would think you would be behind that.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Every person in the generation before the current one can read and write cursive. Everyone. Also it'd be nice if my kids can understand a short memo or message I write. Cursive should've never been dropped.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Many in previous generations are very poor at cursive writing. No point if it can't be read. However, I have never stopped using it in my writings and notes.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

The kid in the black jacket is clearly thinking, "One hour til lunch."

I've always admired people with good handwriting. Mine is atrocious, partly (probably) because I'm left-handed. But I can type in the dark.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

There is no cursive writing in Japanese calligraphy. I love the writings of people using previous less popular kanji characters.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

That's wrong. Historical documents and manuscripts are often written in kuzushiji, a form of Japanese cursive. This poses a hurdle to interpretation and usage, not only to researchers but also to other people who have old letters and diaries stored at home.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

While teacher is writing words on white board, I relax to learn. At computer class I have to concentrate on computer screen all the time until class is over, no comfortable time. My eyes are tired after all.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

One of my favourite hanging scrolls is done in 崩し字 which is Japanese cursive writing

6 ( +9 / -3 )

One of my favourite hanging scrolls is done in 崩し字 which is Japanese cursive writing

Agree--one of my faves too.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

We used ballpoint pens at school, but were taught to write what was known as 'joined-up writing' in the UK with a cartridge fountain pen. It never occurred to me that kids might not be taught to write. That probably explains the terrible handwriting I see on some items of mail. I used to assume that small children were helping their parents with the mail shot, or that the sender had a disability.

Cursive is not always a benefit. At various periods, 'Secretary' hands have varied from being quite easy to read to very difficult. GP's writing is notorious, not least because an error in reading it can lead to death.

If you think cursive Roman is tough, you should see what passed for cursive kana in early Japanese books. Even Japanese scholars have trouble reading it.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Also a leftie, which might partly explain my aversion to cursive writing. Ink always gets on my hands/gets smudged and the darn binder is usually in the way.

The kid in the black jacket is clearly thinking, "One hour til lunch."

I've always admired people with good handwriting. Mine is atrocious, partly (probably) because I'm left-handed. But I can type in the dark.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Kuzushiji writings are always gibberish to me. I can't read.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Agree--one of my faves too.

Which scroll are you talking about? the text you quote does not mention any.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I can't see how anyone could down vote my comment. It is a fact. Google cursive Japanese writing

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I used to love hand writing and have written 2 books in long hand. I do at times still do so, but i have arthritis in my hand which makes hand writing very difficult now.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

North American cursive, as traditionally taught, is distinctively different. It's refreshing to see it make a come-back.

The increasing use of a jumbled mixture of lowercase and Capital letters always looks rough.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Wallace, I hate to disagree with you but you're wrong when you say there is no cursive element to Japanese calligraphy. My calligraphy instructor, God rest his soul, was one of Japan's top-100 experts, and learning that art from him and inheriting many of his brushes, I can say unequivocally that brush and ink is almost identical to pen and paper. And even at my now 70 years of age, my handwriting receives compliments. It's an art form that too many people 'learned' to ignore. And as a writer I can tell you this - you put a LOT more thought into what you write when using a pen and paper than you do when typing. Try it sometime. Write a letter to a friend or relative, on nice paper, taking your time to think about what you're saying, and you'll discover some pretty wonderful things about not only yourself, but about consideration of others.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

TrevorPeace

Write a letter to a friend or relative, on nice paper, taking your time to think about what you're saying, and you'll discover some pretty wonderful things about not only yourself, but about consideration of others.

I have posted I continue to handwrite for my writings and notes. I keep several writing books.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

TrevorPeace

there is a tradition in Japan to send postcards for the New Year. This year we hand-wrote more than 100.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Wallace

Maybe you don't know, it's easier to write cursive in Japanese using a brush and ink, traditional way. Or a special brush pen. Writing cursive with a ball pen is harder as there is friction when the hand is on the page.

Do you write nengajoe in Japanese or English? 100 is a lot of names and addresses. How do you find time? Many Japanese people are giving up the card sending tradition.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Cymbaline

Do you write nengajoe in Japanese or English? 100 is a lot of names and addresses. How do you find time? Many Japanese people are giving up the card sending tradition.

We write in Japanese and include two Haiku poems for the Year of the Dragon. We start at the beginning of December. Not very difficult.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

That sounds very difficult. Well done. Do you write like this?

https://www.mdn.co.jp/news/6495

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There is no cursive writing in Japanese calligraphy.

Very wrong. 小野の道風 was a famous Heian calligrapher who worked in the cursive style for starters

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ono_no_Michikaze

I love the writings of people using previous less popular kanji characters.

Heian period cursive style kana is much more satisfying and unique to Japan. Less popular kanji are just that; less interesting. Heian kana cursive was used to convey a certain refinement in letters and poetry much like what the articles cursive teaching will do.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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