“As life gets faster and faster … who has time to type out words?”
This is a line from “The Emoji Movie.” (Yes, Hollywood made an entire film based on the fictional lives of the symbols we use in our texts and social media posts.)
In a day and age where more and more people are using hearts, smiley faces and a picture of a high-five instead of typing out words to describe a feeling, it’s difficult to believe a Hoosier state senator authored a bill to make learning the art of cursive mandatory in our schools.
This is the seventh year in a row state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has authored a bill to bring cursive back to the classroom. Local Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, is also listed as a bill author this session.
On a national level, Leising is not alone in thinking cursive is an integral part of the learning process. A number of lawmakers in states across the U.S. have mounted a cursive crusade. Currently, in Indiana, local schools can decide to teach cursive but it’s not a requirement.
Leising’s bill last session morphed into a bill calling for a study in between sessions. During this time, the Indiana Department of Education conducted a survey of school officials and teachers. Seventy percent of respondents expressed support for adding cursive back to the curriculum. But the survey was dismissed by some due to most of the support shown coming from a small percentage of districts, making the survey unscientific, Mike Brown, legislative affairs director of the state’s department of education, told the Indianapolis Star in January.
“Quite honestly, cursive writing is not a critical skill needed for the 21st-century workforce,” Brown told the Star. “To be prepared for what’s to come, our time and human capital investments must be focused on STEM, coding and computers.”
However, a number of research scientists would likely disagree with this assessment. Handwriting in general is considered to have cognitive benefits. In many cases, students retain information better if they write it down and handwriting encourages the composition of thought and reason, according a number of studies.
But few argue cursive handwriting is better than print handwriting — aside from the fact that those who are multilingual hand-writers in print and cursive often write faster in cursive.
Therefore, from what we can gather, the real fear is that children who miss the opportunity to learn cursive also are performing less writing in general. Rather than taking time to write an essay to answer a question, children are filling in the blank, selecting from a multiple choice or choosing between true or false. While such testing has its place, it doesn’t require a student to explain and connect information the way writing does, handwriting proponents argue.
Leising’s cursive bill made it out of the Senate and was referred to the House committee on education at the beginning of February. The session ends March 14.
While I’m not convinced based on my limited research that cursive is essential to the classroom, as a journalist who believes in preserving the written word, I can’t help but want to support an effort that encourages handwriting and, thus, good old-fashioned composition.
Typing remains essential, as does coding these days. But in a day and age with emojis, a little extra thinking via handwriting wouldn’t hurt.☺
Lucretia Cardenas is the KPC editorial director. Contact her at email@example.com.