One of the casualties of the Common Core standards may be that this generation of children will never learn cursive handwriting because the new standards emphasize keyboard skills and fail to include cursive. Currently, at least 41 states do not require that students learn to read and write in cursive, with many states leaving the decision up to individual school districts. In Ohio, prior to the implementation of the Common Core standards, the state recommended that children learn cursive in grades 3 to 4. Now, it’s optional. Between the emphasis on keyboard skills in the Common Core and the fact that it will not be included in testing (tests are administered via computer), schools are likely to continue to de-emphasize what once was a mandatory skill for all school children.
To be fair, the decline in cursive began before the onset of Common Core. In 2006 only fifteen percent of students taking the SAT wrote their essay answers in cursive and in 2007, ten percent of teachers said their schools no longer taught it.
Proponents of cursive handwriting point to the benefits: improved fine motor skills, development in thinking, language and working memory and increased speed and efficiency. But perhaps the greatest loss will be the ability to read original historical documents. Students who are not taught to read in cursive will miss out on both important documents like the Declaration of Independence and more trivial pieces of the American story, like signed photographs from celebrities.
Below are some examples of what the Common Core generation will miss if we neglect to teach them cursive:
1. The U.S. Declaration of Independence
Though Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence, master penman Timothy Matlack was recruited to put a feather quill pen to parchment on the original document. In those days, elegant penmanship was a considered a sign of social status and master penmen like Matlack were commissioned to copy important documents like deeds, birth and marriage certificates. Future Americans who visit the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence won’t have the thrill their predecessors experienced of squinting at the faded cursive words and John Hancock’s signature — they’ll have to rely on the printed transcript.