On July 21, 2016, the Arkansas House of Representatives approved State House Bill 1044 by a 66-21 vote. Introduced by Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, the bill aims to ensure that all public school students learn cursive handwriting by the end of the third grade.
Critics of the bill argue that such a matter as teaching cursive should be left to local school districts to decide. That would be a valid argument if all elementary teachers and school administrators understood the importance of teaching handwriting in grades K-3.
Unfortunately, many professional educators seem to view the teaching of handwriting to children K-3 as some kind of “old-school skill” incompatible with modern technology. They complain that it “takes too much time” and should be replaced by keyboarding instruction.
These educators have not kept up with the latest research that shows a correlation between handwriting and higher level thinking skills.
Easier to understand is the ignorance of people outside the educational establishment.
Here are some comments evoked by Bill 1044:
Everyone needs to be taught to type. Cursive will go the way of the buggy whip and it is now a waste of time.—Jim Smith of Mountain Home.
It’s like teaching kids Morse Code. Yeah, it takes up a bit of time and some of the kids like it, but is it going to be used as a form of communication by future generations?—Martin Kellem of Mountain Home.
Teaching cursive [is like] teaching kids how to churn butter and how to properly fit a powdered wig.—State Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville.
Plenty of Arkansas children are already receiving and have received instruction in cursive, but not all of them seem to have learned how to hold a pencil for maximum control.
I’ve observed numerous young people taking orders in restaurants and retail stores holding their pens and pencils in very strange ways. Some grasp them like ski poles. Others weave them between their fingers.
Photos that accompany a news article about the Arkansas legislation show third-graders who are presently receiving instruction in cursive. Several of the children pictured have not mastered the tripod grip.
Even with a cursive law on the books, school administrators will still have the responsibility to see that it is taught properly.
The first step in teaching writing printed or joined is to show the child how to hold a pencil.