Brain Development Could Suffer as Cursive Writing Fades

Posted at: 02/18/2013 9:37 PM
Updated at: 02/18/2013 11:10 PM
By: Leah McLean

The signature and cursive handwriting are in danger of fading away. In Minnesota, schools are no longer required to teach cursive. But it's not just the signature that's taking a hit, the way students learn and how their brains develop could suffer.

Maria Theissen uses the latest technology to teach her third-grade class old fashioned cursive handwriting at Concord Elementary in Edina. She says "it's about the marriage of technology. The old school and the new school have to come together."

But they appear headed for divorce. Several states including Illinois, Indiana and Hawaii don't teach cursive.

Minnesota no longer requires schools to teach cursive. The Department of Education says most districts still choose to teach it, but they spent less time on the cursive - kids are using keyboards much more.

The state follows a national standard called the Common Core. It says students must know keyboarding by fifth grade, but doesn't even mention cursive. At least 46 states have adopted the standards.

Most Minnesota kids are learning cursive in second or third grade, but by fifth grade they turn to typing full time. Most never have to look back.

Researchers say it's not about whether typing or cursive is more important. Learning cursive actually helps a child's brain development.

Doctors at Indiana University used MRI's to look at children's brains and found more activity when they were writing versus typing and researchers from Vanderbilt got similar results, seeing kids brains light up less in front of a keyboard. Doctors say cursive handwriting, more than printing, stimulates intelligence and language fluency. Fluent writing keeps kids from truncating their thoughts.

The Department of Education says they are always reevaluating their policies. They may reexamine their cursive policy if schools stop using it.