If you were to walk into a third grade classroom ten years ago you would expect to find children seated at their desk working in the handwriting notebooks we all remember so well, one for print and one for cursive. You can probably still make out the dashed outline of the first letter on each row guiding your number two pencil as it moved from left to right across the page. But walk into a third grade classroom today and you will be hard pressed to find those special notebooks that earned you a sticker for perfect penmanship. In its place you find clusters of computers and iPads with children wearing headphones pounding away at keyboard fingering games. We entered the 21st century and shifted from industry to information and with it came an emphasis on the development of knowledge over the development of physical skills. As a result, educators have begun to abandon physical instruction of practices that are no longer in use due to the advent of technology. Cursive handwriting is the most recent victim of this shift. Indiana state regulation, for example, under the Common Core State Standards Initiative for best education practices states that cursive is no longer required to be taught and instead will be replaced by keyboarding. Many modern educators have neglected cursive in exchange for promoting keyboard fluency and can you blame them? When was the last time you sent a handwritten cursive letter? You don’t; you e-mail. But if you wanted to, you know how and could do it with ease because you were taught. What you may not realize–and what many educators do not realize– is that by learning cursive you were not merely learning how to communicate in another font, you were building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, socialization and everyday tasks.
Without recognizing it, those repetitive cursive handwriting drills we did as children were some of our first and most basic steps in developing our cognitive abilities. Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world around us—better known as our proprioceptive and vestibular senses.