Teachers may write on the blackboard using loopy handwriting.
Signatures are still needed to make a credit card purchase, file tax returns or get a loan. Grandma’s birthday message is probably written in cursive, and so was the Declaration of Independence.
But local elementary schools have scaled back their teaching of cursive, a style most adults learned extensively starting in second or third grade.
State and federal curriculum standards don’t require cursive handwriting to be taught, and local educators say that the time in the classroom is better spent elsewhere.
But one state lawmaker says cursive writing helps children’s reading skills by connecting the letters in the same direction they read and helps develop motor skills. She has proposed legislation to keep the handwriting style as part of schools’ curriculum.
Senate Bill 120, written by State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, requiring Indiana schools to teach cursive handwriting has been approved by the state Senate and will be considered in the Indiana House.
Educators say typing is a skill students will need to carry them into future job markets.
National Common Core standards adopted by the Indiana Department of Education in 2011 don’t mandate teaching cursive or keyboarding, said David Galvin, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education.
With more skills to teach and no more time to do it, something has to be scaled back, local educators said.
Cursive has been it.
“Schools are being asked to teach a lot of things they weren’t asked to teach (before),” said Mark Heiden, principal at Creekside Elementary School in Franklin. “We, as a school have to look at the reality of the world.”
All school districts in the county introduce students to cursive writing in second and third grades. A few minutes a day learning the skill is all that is taught, and more extensive lessons aren’t common in the schools.
Spending hours mastering a skill that some say is losing relevance isn’t feasible, educators said.
Being able to express thoughts in coherent sentences and paragraphs is more important than a debate on whether the thoughts are typed or handwritten, said Dave Ennis, principal at Indian Creek Intermediate School.
“There are only so many hours in a day,” he said. “I am more concerned with kids being able to articulate on paper rather than handwriting.”
But not teaching cursive handwriting will cut students’ connection to the past as older relatives likely write in that style. And cursive has been shown to help kids become better writers and spellers, Leising said.
“We would get adults who won’t be able to read cursive because they can’t write it,” she said.
Teachers at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood stopped teaching cursive for about a year after Indiana adopted the core standards. But a cursive writing program was added back to the curriculum, in part because some parents asked for it, Principal Beth Guilfoy said.
But most cursive lessons have been scaled back from working extensively during second grade to spending maybe 30 minutes a day practicing spelling words in handwriting or teaching students to write their name.
The growth of technology has made educators move to spend more time teaching basic typing skills than to teaching students how to write cursive, said Brooke Phillips, principal at Maple Grove Elementary School in Bargersville.
Technology is used in every classroom at the school and typing an email rather then sending a letter is a quicker means of communication, Phillips said.
Knowing how to write cursive is no longer a skill that will predict student success, she said.
“We have to prioritize,” she said. “(Knowing) cursive won’t make or break a kid’s success.”