Starting this year, California elementary school students will be required to write in cursive in schools. As a result, more than 2.6 million Californians in grades 1 to 7, ages 6 to 12, will receive calligraphy lessons.
The change is a turnaround for a generation of children who learned to write directly on tablet and computer screens.
The law, enacted in October, was the initiative of Sharon Quirk-Silva, a former elementary school teacher and state representative in California. She claims she was inspired to propose the bill after a meeting with former governor Jerry Brown in 2016.
Educated under Jesuit guidance, Brown was excited to learn that the congresswoman, re-elected at the time, was a teacher. “You need to resume cursive writing,” the former governor said.
According to the congresswoman, cursive writing was still included in the standards required by California in classrooms, but the instruction was deficient and inconsistent.
Experts say learning cursive improves cognitive development and helps students’ reading comprehension and motor skills. Educators also believe that reading historical documents and letters from family members from past generations is beneficial to the learning process.
At Orangethorpe Elementary School in Fullerton, 30 miles from Los Angeles, teacher Pamela Keller said she was already teaching students cursive before the law went into effect earlier this month.
She states that some children complain about the difficulty of writing on paper, but the teacher says she prefers to present the benefits of writing for learning.
“We say this will make them smarter, that it will help them make brain connections and advance to the next level. Students are excited because they want to learn,” says the teacher.
In the learning process, Keller also revisits classic phrases such as “put more force on your pencil”, or “write more delicately” and reminds students that “the eraser is our best friend”.
Some of them have fun. On a recent visit to the school library, a student was excited to see that the 1787 U.S. Constitution was written in cursive.
“I love it because I feel like writing is more sophisticated and it’s fun to learn new letters,” says Sophie Guardia, 9.
In teacher Nancy Karcher’s classroom, the reaction of the 3rd year students generated reactions such as “it’s fun”, “it’s beautiful” or “now I can understand my mother’s handwriting”. Others already claim that they will use the new technique to write their secrets in personal diaries.
Return to cursive
As keyboards and tablets proliferated, cursive disappeared. In 2010, US educational standards removed the process of learning this type of writing from the list of mandatory classes in the classroom.
According to Kathleen Wright, founder of the Handwriting Collective, an NGO that promotes the teaching of calligraphy, teachers stopped teaching children to form letters and colleges stopped preparing teachers to teach calligraphy.
With the law, California became the 22nd US state to require handwriting and the 14th to enact a cursive instruction bill. This year, five states are discussing bills to resume the technique in the classroom.