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Cursive writing sees revival in American school instruction

Updated: 2017-03-15 07:54

Cursive writing sees revival in American school instruction

Youngsters practice cursive handwriting in New York. Cursive writing is looping back into style in schools. [Photo/Agencies]

Cursive writing is looping back into style in schools across the United States after a generation of students who know only keyboarding, texting and printing out their words longhand.

Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states that require cursive. Last fall, the 1.1 million-student New York City schools, the nation's largest public school system, encouraged the teaching of cursive to students, generally in the third grade.

"It's definitely not necessary but I think it's, like, cool to have it," says Emily Ma, a 17-year-old senior at New York City's academically rigorous Stuyvesant High School, who was never taught cursive in school and had to learn it on her own.

Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l's and three-humped m's is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma. Still more say it's just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.

That was where New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis drew the line on the cursive generation gap, when she encountered an 18-year-old at a voter registration event who printed out his name in block letters.

"I said to him, 'No, you have to sign here,'" Malliotakis says. "And he said, 'That is my signature. I never learned script.'"

Malliotakis took her concerns to city education officials and found a receptive audience.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina distributed a handbook on teaching cursive writing in September and is encouraging principals to use it. It cites research suggesting that fluent cursive helps students master writing tasks such as spelling and sentence construction because they don't have to think as much about forming letters.

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