In 2010, the Common Core included keyboarding skills as part of the new standards. With the proliferation of computers, instruction shifted from handwriting to keyboard skills. Consequently, a generation of Americans can neither read nor write cursive. I considered that unfortunate reality when I attended an exhibition of actual historical documents, including George Washington’s Farewell Address and Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. These original texts are inaccessible to those who haven’t been trained in script.
But, more importantly, a strong connection exists between writing and cognitive skills. “Functional brain imaging studies indicate the visual recognition of letters and the physical motion of producing letters both activate the same region of the brain.” Studies have demonstrated that putting pen or pencil to paper is more beneficial than using a keyboard for retention. Ironically, the speed of typing can actually impede effective note-taking. On the other hand, the slower speed of handwriting provides time for retention. It enhances memory and establishes a kinesthetic component to learning that results in deeper thinking so the student can include the important ideas from a lecture or text.
Furthermore, a recent study demonstrated that handwriting has a positive effect on writing composition. “Handwriting instruction produced statistically significant gains in the quality, length, and fluency of students’ writing.” Recognition of the importance of handwriting appears to be increasing. At least 21 states have reintroduced cursive instruction in their curriculum. “Legible handwriting remains an important life skill that deserves greater attention from educators and health practitioners.”