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Louisiana to mandate cursive education in 3rd through 12th grades
State joins a handful of others bucking the Common Core's exclusive reliance on "keyboard skills." - photo by Eric Schulzke
Bucking the Common Core's exclusive reliance on keyboard skills, Louisiana's governor has announced that he will sign a bill requiring that cursive be taught in the state's public schools from 3rd through 12th grade.

Louisiana now joins a minority of states that have brought back cursive requirements, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, California, Georgia, and Kansas.

One national survey of 612 elementary school teachers found 41 percent no longer incorporated cursive writing lessons into their curriculum.

Some experts think the death of cursive is both inevitable and salutary. "Let cursive die," argued University of Southern California education professor Morgan Polikoff in a 2013 New York Times Op Ed.

"The Common Core standards are well constructed and full of the essential skills students need to succeed in reading and writing," Polikoff argued. "The architects of the standards certainly weighed the inclusion of cursive and believed there was no need to include it. Thus, educators and policymakers should resist the urge to add more skills. Doing so would simply result in a crowded, less-focused curriculum, undermining the strength of the standards."

Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced with technology, Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax, Virginia, Education Association told the Washington Post last year. Educators are having to make choices about what they teach with a limited amount of time and little or no flexibility. Much of their instructional time is consumed with teaching to a standardized test.

Not so fast, say some developmental psychologists, whose recent research suggests that there may be much more at stake than pretty signatures. Handwriting, as opposed to keyboarding, seems to play a key role in brain development, leading to faster reading and better retention.

When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated, Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collge de France in Paris, told the New York Times. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didnt realize, Dehaene continued. Learning is made easier.

William Klemm, a neuroscientist at Texas A&M, recently wrote in Psychology Today that "cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn 'functional specialization,' that is capacity for optimal efficiency."

"Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice," Klemm writes, adding that there is a "spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. Students have to pay attention and think about what and how they are doing it. They have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding."