Despite the world trending away from the written word and toward typing and texting, California has passed a law that will require cursive writing instruction in elementary schools across the state, for all kids in grades one through six. The bill was passed as many lawmakers praised the pros of teaching all kids cursive.
Bill 466 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom this week, mandating cursive or “joint italics” learning for students.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, who represents Fullerton and who introduced the bill, says that the measure is about equity for students.
“As a teacher for over 30 years, cursive writing was always an important part of our curriculum. This is an issue of equity because access to cursive education has depended on the school district a student attends,” she told local San Diego News Channel 8. “Research has shown that cursive handwriting enhances a child’s brain development including memorization and improves fine motor skills. This bill ensures that the younger generation is equipped with the skills needed to navigate the demands of the world of today, and to connect with their history in the world of yesterday.”
Quirk-Silva is a former elementary school educator.
Cursive writing was cut from the “Common Core” of education requirements in the United States in 2010 — which means that for the last 13 years, kids have been getting a range of instruction in their school, depending on where they live, what school they attend, and sometimes just which teacher they have.
But since that time, at least 21 states (now 22, counting California) have made cursive writing for kids a state-level requirement.
It’s a debate whether cursive writing is an outdated art that should be allowed to die out or if it’s an integral part of learning to read and write that helps kids develop their skills.
Quirk-Silva made an additional point that many historical documents are written in cursive, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, just to name two. Dropping it from the curriculum for good would mean relying on “translators” to read anything in longhand.
“A lot of the historical documents going back two or three decades are actually in cursive,” Quirk-Silva said. “I went on 23andMe looking for some family records and they were all written in cursive.”
Many other proponents of cursive instruction reiterate that many historical documents are in cursive — and we will lose a lot if those are meaningless to many of our kids. Historian Drew Gilpin Faust told NPR that she was shocked to discover that her college students couldn’t read Civil War documents.
“[Not learning cursive] separates you from what has come before in a – both a very personal and individual way, but also in a larger way,” she says. “As a society, it separates us from what has come before and understanding our origins and the meanings of them.”