These days, some kids probably think cursive writing is when you tweet a bunch of bad words.
See, they just don't teach handwriting in school like they did 30 or 40 years ago. You can't walk into a classroom and see those big cards that show a print letter next to its cursive counterpart.
It's just not that big a deal. But then, they don't have "typing" class anymore either. It's now called "keyboarding," which sounds like something punks do in the street to annoy older drivers.
Part of this is just the world moving on, and part of it is politics. Nowadays, public schools are forced to teach to standardized tests, and if cursive writing is not something the state gets graded on, they can't devote much time to it.
Some school systems still teach cursive in a limited fashion, while others barely bother at all. But lawmakers may change all that. They believe cursive writing should once again be part of standard curricula statewide because, well, it's important.
"Did you ever read the Constitution?" asks state Rep. Joe Daning, one of the sponsors of the Back to Basics Education Act. "It's in cursive. How are these kids going to sign their names - with an X? Are we going back to the Wild West?"
We're already there. And the fastest text in West Ashley probably couldn't write an entire sentence in script.
Sign here, please
The state dropped cursive writing from its educational requirements in 2008.
Since then, any school that wants to teach the finer points of handwriting has to buy materials on their own dime.
In Charleston County, students are introduced to cursive writing late in the second grade and get more of it in the third - kind of like it used to be. Connie Williams, curriculum superintendent in English Language Arts, says it's important for kids to make that transition from manuscript writing to cursive, even if there is no state requirement.
"We all know it needs to be there," Williams says.
Berkeley County schools handle this similarly, but the Dorchester District 2 doesn't devote a lot of ink to penmanship. Sean Alford, assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction, says the district hasn't made cursive a priority because teachers devote their limited instructional time to other areas.
As you know, there's no shortage of things that kids need to know these days.
"It's not something we would oppose, but we're not going to carry a flag down the road for it," Alford says. "It certainly wouldn't hurt the kids."
And that's the point.
At a hearing last week, educators told lawmakers that they don't have time to teach anything that's not aimed at preparing students for standardized tests. And that's the real problem here. Schools are forced to hit some arbitrary benchmark for political reasons, and everyone suffers as a result.
Is cursive writing the most important thing in the world? No, not until they ask you to sign your name on your driver's license.
Or voter ID card.
There is, of course, some election year politics at play.
The main sponsor of the bill also wants to require multiplication tables to be taught in school, which of course is already being done - Common Core or not.
And it's true that lawmakers have taken a beating lately for trying to impose their will on academic freedom. That's a fair point too.
Why is this different? Well, it's not about censoring anything; it's about making sure kids learn something they can use later in life.
So will this "Back to Basics Education Act" pass? Maybe. Lawmakers are mulling it.
"Cursive writing is a good skill to have," says state Rep. Chip Limehouse. "The art of handwriting is something that every American ought to have. But I'd like to hear more from educators. I don't know that we necessarily need to mandate it - we already pass on a lot of mandates."
That said, Limehouse understands why his colleagues are passionate about this, and, unless teachers tell him no, he'd probably support it.
That is exactly the right take on this. Politicians don't need to push issues just to trigger nostalgia in voters, but they do have a responsibility for common-sense oversight.
And cursive writing isn't just nostalgia, it's a basic skill that everyone needs.
Even if they spend most of their time these days tapping on smartphones.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com
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