The Norman Transcript

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November 25, 2012

Some states try to preserve art of penmanship despite tech gains

LOS ANGELES — The pen may not be as mighty as the keyboard these days, but California and a handful of states are not giving up on handwriting entirely.

Bucking a growing trend of eliminating cursive from elementary school curriculums or making it optional, California is among the states keeping longhand as a third-grade staple.

The state’s posture on penmanship is not likely to undercut its place at the leading edge of technology, but it has teachers and students divided over the value of learning flowing script and looping signatures in an age of touchpads and mobile devices.

Some see it as a waste of time, an anachronism in a digitized society where even signatures are electronic, but others see it as necessary so kids can hone fine motor skills, reinforce literacy and develop their own unique stamp of identity.

The debate comes as 45 states move toward adopting national curriculum guidelines in 2014 for English and math that don’t include cursive handwriting, but require proficiency in computer keyboarding by the time pupils exit elementary school.

Several states, including California, Georgia and Massachusetts, have added a cursive requirement to the national standards, while most others, such as Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii have left it as optional for school districts. Some states, like Utah, are still studying the issue.

Whether it’s required or not, cursive is fast becoming a lost art as schools increasingly replace pen and paper with classroom computers and instruction is increasingly geared to academic subjects that are tested on standardized exams. Even the standardized tests are on track to be administered via computer within three years.

Experts say manuscript, or printing, may be sufficient when it comes to handwriting in the future.

“Do you really need to learn two different scripts?” said Steve Graham, education professor at Arizona State University who has studied handwriting instruction. “There will be plenty of kids who don’t learn cursive. The more important skill now is typing.”

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