New push to require Wisconsin students to learn cursive: ‘It’s a really important skill’

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GLENDALE, Wis. -- hould Wisconsin students be required to learn cursive? You might be surprised to learn many public schools do not teach it anymore. Now, a proposed bill would require all Wisconsin students to be proficient in cursive by the 5th grade.

The letters and sounds are all too familiar. They are the building blocks of the English language. But what students are putting on paper now, may be lost in translation.

Cursive has been cut from a curriculum that uses keyboards and computer screens more than paper and pencil.

"It's sad that apparently in many schools and in many parts of the country, that has been quietly dropped," said Martha Carlin, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor of History.

Wisconsin's Montessori schools are among the holdouts.

"Children naturally draw in loops and circles," said Carolina Robbins, Admissions Director for North Shore Montessori School.

Kids at Milwaukee's North Shore Montessori begin to read and write in cursive when they turn three.

"It's a really important skill that is linked to brain development, literacy, concentration, motor skills. So many things are linked to cursive," Robbins said.

Historians too believe cursive has value -- bridging the gap between modern technology and family tradition.

"It's a real loss to the younger generations not to be able to read grandma's Christmas letter," Carlin said.

The debate over whether cursive is necessary or nostalgia has made its way from the classroom to the state capitol. Lawmakers have authored a bill requiring all elementary schools -- public and private -- to teach it. It is a proposal that is getting some pushback.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards does not judge the merit of teaching cursive. But it does object to any mandate -- like the proposed cursive bill that requires schools to spend money or other resources.