Central Oregon

Special report: Is cursive handwriting a fading skill?

High Desert teachers, students weigh in on value

Handwriting becoming a lost art?

REDMOND, Ore. - During a lunch period at Ridgeview High School, I gave four students a test: Write, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" -- in cursive.

Just nine words -- and it took three of the honor students almost 3 minutes to complete.

When they finally finished, most of them made some mistakes. The z's weren't written properly, and many practiced the word, scribbled it out and re-wrote it.

These teens aren't alone in the struggle. An entire generation is forgetting the proper loops and swirls of cursive.

"My teachers can read it, my peers can kind of read it, but when it comes to being the correct, standard perfect cursive, it's definitely changed," said Aliyah Foremen, a junior at Ridgeview.

For Ridgeview sophomore Connor Kiblinger, his normal handwriting is done entirely in cursive, so this test was a breeze.

"If we're doing student presentations, and I go write something on the board in cursive, I get people all the time who say, 'I can't read that. What does that say? What's that letter?'" Kiblinger said.

The SAT and PSAT, pre-college tests, require students hand-write a sentence.

Printing is not allowed.

"I don't think it's that relevant, not that important, nobody writes in cursive really any more, so why not just print that section?" said junior Chase Langeliers.

"The people that it's really hard for, they practically memorize that sentence so they know exactly what they signed," said sophomore Heidi Ronhaar.

A waste of time some say. Others argue it's a true test of time.

"For the SAT, I think it's good to be on there, honestly, to kind of show, 'Hey, this is a skill that's still valued, even though a lot of people aren't using it,'" Foremen said.

Most teens were taught cursive, but haven't used it since elementary school.

In Joanie Valley's third-grade class at High Lakes Elementary in Bend, the students are three weeks into their cursive lessons.

"Kids can't read cursive if they don't know how to write it, and I hear from a lot of parents how excited they are when their child gets a card from grandma and grandpa, and they can read it. They don't have to have mom and dad read it to them," Valley said.

Valley says learning to write in cursive teaches students skills that a keyboard can't.

"It makes them really stop and think, and it also helps with their spelling too," Valley said.

But only minutes into my visit, the kids switched from practicing cursive on paper, to looping and swooping on iPads.

They were using today's technology to learn an age-old skill.

In 41 states, including Oregon, cursive is no longer required to be taught in school. Keyboarding, however, is now required by fifth grade.

Though it may be fading from the curriculum, even some high schoolers -- the most logged-on bunch -- say they're glad they learned what's written in history.

"I think it was worth it, because if I didn't know it, I wouldn't know how to read my grandparents' writing, or even my moms' writing. I wouldn't know how to sign my name, so I think it's pretty worthwhile to learn it,"Ronhaar said.

Here are some links to Common Core Standards:

English Arts Standards - Grade 3 http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/3/6/

English Arts Standards - Grade 4 http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/4/6/

English Arts Standards - Grade 5 http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/5/6/

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