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The Cursive Debate: Arizona Requires Cursive Writing Instruction in New Standards

Arizona's Board of Education recently approved a new set of education standards that will require cursive instruction to be taught in the state's public schools, resurfacing the debate on whether or not the instruction has a place in the 21st-century school.

According to Havasu News, Arizona's public school students will now be required to master cursive writing by fifth-grade, joining a list of several states that have already done the same. 

Arizona's updated standards are reportedly an overhaul of the previously-adopted Common Core Standards. Though the Common Core does not prohibit cursive writing instruction, it does not require it, either. This has caused the education community to debate whether it should have ever since the standards were released in 2010.

In an increasingly digital world, supporters of cursive writing fear that without specifically requiring the instruction, students will forget how to connect the letters as they place reliance on using a keyboard.

While the debate against cursive writing has become highly politicized as most things associated with the Common Core have, some research suggests that the handwriting instruction has benefits on student learning.

"For young children in particular, research suggests that comfort with handwriting allows them to express more ideas, because they're able to get ideas down on paper before they slip away," said The Boston Globe in the article Fighting to save cursive from the Common Core.

Further, The Boston Globe points to work from Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, who argues for the importance of students being "multilingual by hand."

"Berninger is conducting ongoing longitudinal research on the effects of training children in various methods of text production. Her work suggests that print handwriting, cursive, and keyboard all have distinct developmental advantages. In one recent study, she and her coauthors reported that cursive in particular had measurable positive effects on older children's spelling and composition skills," the article said.

Opponents argue that cursive writing is an outdated waste of time that distracts children from learning more important concepts.

"Spending any classroom time on it is comparable to teaching how to use an abacus: it's interesting as a history lesson, and probably offers some side benefits, but it is not at all practical as a day-to-day skill in the modern, connected world," writes Justin Pot, a technology journalist.

Weston Kincade, English teacher at the Akron Digital Academy, compared cursive writing to Egyptian hieroglyphs in an article for Cleveland.com.

"Today the ability to read hieroglyphs is a skill taught mainly to historians, archaeologists and genealogists. The same will probably prove true for cursive in the future. But languages have one important thing in common, literacy. Like the ancient Egyptians, our languages and methods of communicating will change. The most important thing for our children and future generations is that we keep communicating and using the written word," Kincade said.

Education World would like to know: Do you think cursive writing is necessary or nostalgic? Weigh-in by taking our survey below.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor 

Is cursive writing instruction necessary or nostalgic?

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