Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill Tuesday mandating public and charter schools introduce students to cursive writing by the time they reach third grade, with instruction continuing until graduation from high school. This policy will go into effect prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year.
The bill was introduced by state Senator Beth Mizell, who said she had heard of cases where young people did not know what a signature means.
"To deprive our students of not knowing how to write cursive, no less read cursive, is pretty audacious on our part," Mizell told the Louisiana Senate Education Committee in April.
Mizell's complaints were joined by the committee's chairman, Dan "Blade" Morrish, who brought up a moment between his mother-in-law and nephew after she gave the youngster a grocery shopping list.
"He said he could not read it," Morrish said. "It was cursive. She has beautiful cursive handwriting."
What Mizell and her colleagues fail to understand is how outdated cursive is for this and future generations. Much like the slide rule in math, cursive is a useless skill to learn because better and more efficient methods of writing—such as typing—have become popular. Why write out a message in cursive when you can send a message on your smartphone or computer more easily?
If this trend is not enough to convince you cursive needs to go away, consider what Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, wrote in The New York Times in 2013:
Cursive should be allowed to die. In fact, it's already dying, despite having been taught for decades. Very small proportions of adults use cursive for their day-to-day writing. Much of our communication is done on a keyboard, and the rest is done with print.
Additionally, there is little compelling research to suggest the teaching of cursive positively affects other student skills enough to merit its teaching. While both research and common sense indicate students should be taught some form of penmanship, there is simply no need to teach students both print and cursive.
I reached out to Mizell's office to see how much time would be devoted to cursive, but did not hear back by the time of publication. Regardless, any amount would clearly be a waste in the digital world we live in. Why should state policy have anything to say about whether young people can read a grandmother's grocery list?