Plenty of states are pulling back from full implementation of Common Core, the national education curriculum standards pushed by the Obama administration and certain Republican governors. The standards have drawn criticism from libertarians, conservatives, and even teachers unions who worry about an erosion of local and parental autonomy over schooling decisions.
However, Tennessee is modifying Common Core in at least one discouraging way: state officials are going to re-require that kids study cursive.
Readers born after 1995 may not know this, but cursive is a system of hand-drawn, swoopy, loopy ink marks that represent letters and words. People used to "write" notes to each other (instead of typing, you see). It was a real pain for us left-handed folks, who tend to smear everything we write by hand, rendering it unreadable and getting ink all over our wrists.
But even though typing outmodes cursive in just about every way, Tennessee legislators passed a bill that would require kids in second, third, and fourth grade to study the "lost art," according to Reuters:
Schools are expected to start bringing back the declining art of cursive in 2015-2016 under the new rules, signed into law this year by Governor Bill Haslam.
Keyboarding and print writing will still have their place, but legible penmanship will be required by third grade.
"I am surprised we have stopped teaching it in some places," said Gary Nixon, executive director of the Tennessee School Board. "It's an art that is losing its form because of the keyboard."
But pretty much nobody else sees the point:
For millennials, cursive is quaint and not much more.
"It's kind of like hopping on a Pogo stick. If you can do it, great, but if not, it doesn't matter," said Cory Woodroof, 21, a student at Lipscomb University in Nashville who felt grade school handwriting classes were wasted time.
Also at Lipscomb, 20-year-old Janice Ng of Singapore said she took immersion studies in English back home but "they didn't mention cursive. It's not used."
If kids really wanted to learn cursive, that would be one thing. Ideally, they would simply petition their school officials to schedule a few lessons. Kids shouldn't be bound to rigid curriculum standards handed down by distant authorities, unable to concentrate on study areas that interest them—that's the whole problem with Common Core.
But replacing national standards with a weird requirement clearly thrown in for sheer nostalgia by change-averse local planners isn't so great either. (And it really isn't great for left-handed kids.)