Schools across the United States are phasing out cursive handwriting, making it a hot topic of debate among educators, students and researchers.
So, CNN has responded with a brilliant series of articles about handwriting, all linked to a "cultural census" the network is taking that asks everyday people to submit samples of their own handwriting for review and public display.
(Look below to see what we're doing to encourage our readers to participate.)
According to one of the CNN handwriting articles:
Forty out of 50 states in the United States have adopted the Common Core curriculum, which phases out cursive writing in the classroom, for their public schools. According to its mission statement, Common Core seeks to teach skills that are "robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers." In Common Core, the time formerly devoted to teaching cursive is spent on learning to type and other digital skills.
Obviously, this is not going over well with many teachers and even some parents, who grew up learning cursive and believe it to be a skill kids still need.
Besides, there has been considerable research in the last few years showing that writing by hand helps children learn to communicate effectively and is important in the development of cognitive skills.
"Will a simple handwritten note look like hieroglyphics to the next generation?"
So wrote second-grade teacher Anthony McGrann on his Seattle-based education blog, Seconds. The post, which argued that cursive handwriting should continue to be taught in schools, garnered more than 500 comments....
...educators like McGrann feel cursive is more than a traditional style of writing. They believe it has intrinsic value for learning and self-expression.
"For struggling writers, cursive allows them to be more fluent and thus lets their ideas flow on the page more readily ... some students have more ideas in their heads than they can (print) on paper," says McGrann. "If you integrate penmanship with other literacy activities, the formation of letters really does make a difference in the way kids retain information."
As part of its handwriting "census," CNN analyzed the 268 handwriting samples it had received as of Aug. 24. Fewer than 30 percent had been written in cursive. The majority were either printed or written in a combination of printing and cursive.
That's interesting, given that a prominent American handwriting expert claimed recently that the "fastest and most legible hand writers avoid cursive."
To collect the writing samples, CNN asked visitors to its website to write the line "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," then submit a photo of it. You can still get in on the handwriting census, if you'd like. All you have to do is register for an iReport account and upload your photo to CNN.
The samples are definitely worth browsing through, both for a look at the various handwriting styles and because some submitters also included photos of their pens, like FLJeepGuy, who used a Visconti Art Nouveau fountain pen.
Meanwhile, there are other fascinating articles to read in the handwriting series, including a piece by Michael Saba that looked at the evolution of English script, beginning with its roots as a monastic discipline.
It's really great to see that a news outlet like CNN is not only reporting on developments in handwriting, but is also pushing the national and international conversation about it. Even greater is the fact that people are responding and actually taking the time to share their thoughts about it.
Readers, we'd love for you to join in on this CNN project.
In fact, if you do, send us a copy of the handwriting sample (preferrably with your favorite pen in the photo). We'll number the submissions and post them on our site. Then, at the end of the month, we'll randomly select one submission to receive a special gift.