By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Taking a page out of the past when school children spent hours perfecting their handwriting in classrooms, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is giving principals the option of bringing back cursive writing instruction.
And Bay Ridge parents said it’s about time.
Laurie Windsor, president of the District 20 Community Education Council, said parents have told her they like the idea.
“Parents do feel it is important for their children to learn cursive. Many parents have brought this issue up over the last few years on how it hasn't been part of the curriculum,” Windsor told the Brooklyn Eagle. District 20 covers Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights and includes schools in parts of Bensonhurst, Sunset Park and Borough Park.
The chancellor issued a memo to principals giving them the option to teach cursive writing to third graders. Several schools have already reintroduced it in classrooms this term.
“We’re focused on providing schools with the best instructional resources and we’ve already released two resources this year for schools to teach cursive and print handwriting,” officials at the Department of Education said in a statement.
In an interview with Eagle reporters in September, Fariña spoke about bringing back cursive writing.
The change came about after she received requests from parents, Fariña said. “When I do my town hall meetings, the parents say, ‘How are they going to sign a check?’” she told reporters.
“I’ve read the research on the motor coordination issues, and particularly for students who have some learning disabilities, speech in particular … At some age the cursive writing forces you to use a different part of your brain, which I think is important,” the chancellor said.
Cursive writing, also known as script, hasn’t been taught in New York City public schools in decades.
There are a number of reasons as to why parents would like to see a return of cursive writing lessons for their kids, according to Windsor.
“If they don't learn it, how can they read it? Other people do use cursive and there are also older documents in script. How can they sign their name, with an X? How do they sign a check? All official documents require you to sign and then print your name,” she told the Eagle.
Cursive writing is a form of penmanship in which letters are joined together in a flowing manner during the writing process. For decades, cursive writing was a staple in classrooms. But in the age of computer technology, it faded into the background as children used keyboards to write.
Does cursive writing instruction have a place in 21st-century America, where kids are more likely to be computer literate than handy with a paper and pencil?
The answer is yes, Windsor said.
Windsor said most of the parents she has talked to want to see their kids master both cursive writing and computer skills.
“I don't think parents feel it would better to have computer skills over this. They want that too! But folks don't want a time honored mode of writing to be thrown out the window the way it was just to learn technology,” she said.
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), who has been pushing for a return of cursive writing in the classroom for years, said she was pleased when she received assurances from Fariña that it would be making a comeback.
“I thank New York City Chancellor Fariña for hearing my concerns about the discontinuation of cursive instruction, and am pleased that over the past year she has worked with superintendents across the city to ensure third graders will once again learn cursive writing,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis said she first brought up the topic of cursive writing with Fariña during a hearing on the education budget in Albany last year.
“It is important that young people, who will soon be entering the real world, know how to write a signature of their own to identify themselves, and have the ability to sign a legal document, check or voter registration form,” Malliotakis said. “Without knowing how to read script, students can’t even read historic documents like the Declaration of Independence. It is very unfortunate that there is a generation of students who did not learn to write and read cursive, but today we have been assured that this wrong has been corrected.”
Fox 5 News reported that studies have shown teaching handwriting has demonstrated significant gains in the writing skills in students. The study also found a connection between cursive writing and a child’s ability to spell.