The Argument For Cursive Handwriting and Clearer Thinking

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Just as in fashion, trends in education come and go. An average school day might no longer contain Latin, compulsory religious studies, or home economics, and it may not even include that old staple of primary education: cursive. As old-fashioned handwriting lessons make way for courses in keyboard skills, graphic design, and coding, some research suggests that this trend isn't necessarily for the best.

The proponents of a cursive-less classroom have some strong arguments on their side. There are only so many hours in the day, and certain skills need to be prioritized in an increasingly digital age. This kind of thinking is evident in the current federal Common Core standards for public education, which quietly exclude any form of handwriting instruction.  Some states, including California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Tennessee, have passed their own legislation to combat this development, and they have some research to back this up.

A classic study by George H. Early, published in the Journal of Academic Therapy in 1976, notes a connection between first-grade students' instruction in cursive handwriting and their aptitude for reading and spelling. The hypothesis was that so-called "joined-up writing" led to a sort of joined-up thinking, in which the "continuous line in writing a word provides kinesthetic feedback about the shape of the words as a whole, which is absent in manuscript writing." Cursive, in Early's view, promoted words, rather than single letters, as complete units of thought—much more reflective of the way human brains need to process language for comprehension.

For those who dismiss Early's study as a quaint relic of a pre-computer age, Dr. Virginia Berninger, educational psychology professor at the University of Washington, insists that his assertions remain valid. "Cursive helps you connect things," she says. Berninger is quoted in a policy brief published by the National Association of State Boards of Education, which has come out strongly in support of cursive [PDF]. The brief argues that unlike typing, cursive's combined requirements of cognitive and motor skills necessitate formal instruction—keyboards are intuitive, but writing by hand is not.

While cursive handwriting may never regain the dominance it once saw in lesson plans, there's still some worth in all those curlicues and flourishes.

[h/t Mic]

Phoenix High School Builds Laundry Room to Assist Underprivileged Students

harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images
harmpeti/iStock via Getty Images

At Maya High School in Phoenix, Arizona, a large closet off the cafeteria has been converted into a laundry room called “The Missing Sock,” complete with a washing machine, a dryer, and even laundry detergent—no quarters or cards needed.

According to AZFamily, principal John Anderson came up with the idea after realizing that many of the school’s students—more than 30 percent of whom are homeless—were reluctant to even show up for school simply because they didn’t have a way to wash their clothes. After talking to one student in particular, who explained that his family wasn’t providing him with the basic resources he needed in order to succeed in school, Anderson decided it was time for the school itself to step up.

So, with the help of grants from the Leona Group, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Fiesta Bowl, Anderson and his colleagues built their own miniature laundromat, much like West Side High School in New Jersey did last year. If similar endeavors elsewhere are any indication, Maya High School could see a pretty significant quantitative impact on attendance: Schools that received appliances from Whirlpool as part of their Care Counts program, for example, saw a two-day rise in attendance rates for chronically absent students and a staggering increase in class participation.

“I come from a homeless background,” Maya High School special projects coordinator (and graduate) Andreya De La Torre told AZFamily. “Coming to school smelling, kids don’t want to be by you. They are talking about you. And it’s just really hard to focus on your education when you are focused on your self-esteem.”

In addition to giving underprivileged kids easy access to clean clothes, “The Missing Sock” is also a symbol of Maya’s commitment to providing its students with more than just academic skills.

“We offer them life skills to teach them things that someone is probably not teaching them on the outside … and to show them love,” De La Torre explained to AZFamily.

“We make them believe in themselves and want to do it for themselves,” Anderson added.

And it doesn’t stop at the laundry room—Maya High School just earned another grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which Anderson will use to install showers in the school, too.

[h/t AZFamily]

New Jersey Is the Latest State to Push for Cursive in the Classroom

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images

If you happen to have spent some time with kids who graduated from elementary school in the last decade or so, you may notice they have little idea how to form the graceful Gs and 2-shaped Qs of cursive—or any other cursive letter, for that matter. The cursive alphabet was cut from the Common Core curriculum in 2010, and it’s been making those of us who learned it feel old ever since.

However, a number of states—most recently, Texas—have elected to reintroduce cursive into schools in the last few years, and New Jersey is hoping to follow suit. According to WPEC, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight is sponsoring a bill that would require students to master reading and writing in cursive by the end of third grade.

“Our world has indeed become increasingly dependent on technology, but how will our students ever know how to read a scripted font on a Word document, or even sign the back of a check, if they never learn to read and write in cursive?” McKnight asked in a press release. “This bill will ensure every young student in New Jersey will have this valuable skill to carry with them into adulthood.”

Opponents could make the argument that physical checks and scripted fonts are well on their way to becoming relics of the past right alongside cursive literacy, but it’s not just real-world applications that make learning the loopy alphabet such a valuable skill.

“Some research suggests that learning to read and write in cursive benefits the development of cognitive, motor, and literacy skills,” the bill says. “In addition, instruction in cursive handwriting has been associated with improved academic outcomes for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.”

It may also increase your SAT scores, improve your spelling, and more—read about its other benefits here.

[h/t WPEC]

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