With rise of primary school computing, whither cursive?

Is the loss of cursive robbing kids of skills to produce skillful, complex writing?

Could it be that the age-old tradition of putting pen to paper is coming to a close? A mere 15 percent of SAT essays were written in cursive. The rest were printed in block letters. The blame rests squarely on the the infernal keyboard and school priorities, says the Washington Post.

Instruction in handwriting has been on the wane for years. With the pressure to teach the three-Rs and meet the standards, schools are pushing handwriting down the priority ladder.

Some might say that handwriting is an outdated skill, but academics who specialize in writing acquisition argue that it's an important cognitive skill to acquire in the early grades. Research shows children without proficient handwriting skills produce simpler, shorter compositions, from the earliest grades.

"It's like so many other things in our society - there's a sense of loss for what once was," said Laura B. Smolken, a professor of elementary education and early childhood development at the University of Virginia.

At Keene Mill Elementary in Springfield, Va., Debbie Mattocks teaches cursive once a week to her gifted-and-talented group of third-graders - mainly so they can read it. All their poems and stories are typed. Children in Fairfax County schools are taught keyboarding beginning in kindergarten.

Others aren't convinced that cursive shouldn't continue on its way to being a relic of the past.

"I can't think of any other place you need cursive as an adult other than to sign your name," she said. "Cursive -- that is so low on the priority list, we really could care less. We are much more concerned that these kids pass their SOLs [standardized tests], and that doesn't require a bit of cursive," said Keene Mill Elementary teacher, Debbie Mattocks.

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