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]

Yale Is Offering Its 'Science of Well-Being' Course for Free Online

Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images
Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’ve heard that money or career success won’t necessarily make you happier, it’s still hard to resist the impulse to correlate your own well-being to external factors like those. Why are we so bad at predicting what will make us happy, and how can we figure out what actually does the trick?

These are just a couple questions you’ll be able to answer after completing “The Science of Well-Being,” a Yale University course currently being offered for free on Coursera. According to Lifehacker, the 10-week course consists of about two to three hours of reading and videos per week, and you can work at your own pace—so you can definitely take advantage of a free weekend to fly through a few weeks’ worth of material at a time, or postpone a lesson if you’re swamped with other work.

The class is taught by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who will lead students through relevant research on how we’re wired to think about our own well-being and teach you how to implement that knowledge to increase happiness in your life. Since the coursework is task-oriented and the course itself is aimed at helping you build more productive habits, it’s an especially good opportunity for anyone who feels a little overwhelmed at how vague a goal to “be happier” can seem.

As for proof that this is definitely an undertaking worth 20 hours of your time, we’ll let the previous students speak for themselves: From 3731 ratings, the course averages 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Though the course is free, an official certificate to mark your completion—which you can then add to your LinkedIn profile—will cost you $50. Enroll on the Coursera website, and check out 23 other science-backed ways to feel happier here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

[h/t Lifehacker]

The University of Texas at San Antonio Is Offering Free Tuition to Thousands of Students

Prostock-Studio/iStock via Getty Images
Prostock-Studio/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a resident of Texas with college ambitions but face some financial hardship, there’s good news coming out of the University of Texas at San Antonio. This week, the school announced a program called Bold Promise, which will cover tuition for thousands of students annually.

To be eligible, enrollees must be first-time freshmen living in the state, ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school class, and have graduated less than 16 months prior. Once enrolled, they must maintain a 2.5 grade point average each semester. The adjusted gross income of their family cannot exceed $50,500.

UTSA is currently ranked 293 to 381 by U.S. News and World Report in national universities. The school hosts roughly 32,264 students, with an average annual tuition of $9722 for Texans and $24,722 for out-of-state attendees. The acceptance rate is roughly 79 percent.

Incoming students have until January 15 to submit an application, but no separate Bold Promise form is required. The program officially begins with the fall 2020 semester and will cover four years of education. UTSA says the cost will be covered by scholarships, grants, and other exemptions on the state and federal levels. Students will also have the chance to apply for financial aid to cover boarding expenses. UTSA estimates 4000 students will be eligible for the program.

The University of Texas-Austin instituted a similar offer earlier this year, with free tuition for a four-year program offered to students with household incomes of $65,000 or less. Colleges in Michigan and New York have also implemented tuition programs.

[h/t KSAT]

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