Fewer pupils use cursive when writing

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Alondre Ramos, 17, similar to many high school students, writes in print.

"Print is easier for me to write, and my cursive isn't as neat," said the Academy of Richmond County senior.

He's been told his printing is so neat that it should be a font, so the only time he uses cursive is when he's writing his signature.

He's not alone in preferring print: Cursive handwriting is a dying art, some educators say.

Grade-school pupils are still required to master cursive, but by high school, most students use word processors for assignments or print their handwritten work, they say.

At the beginning of the school year, Lakeside High School English teacher Larry Bagwell tells his sophomore advanced English class he wants them to write in cursive so they don't lose the skill.

"I've had a few tell me they don't know how to do it at all," said LaToya Parks, an 11th-grade English teacher at Cross Creek High School.

Georgia public schools don't require cursive for pupils beyond fourth grade.

By high school, most students can choose between print or cursive -- so long as it's legible.

Waylan Myers, 18, prints most of the time.

"My print is more legible than my cursive," said Waylan, a senior at Richmond Academy.

She uses cursive for the SAT writing portion, and other formal writing, such as essays.

"It just seems more formal that writing in print," she said.

The prevalence of personal computers in homes means more students use word processors for school work. Also, schools emphasize teaching skills and content for standardized tests, so there's no need for expertise in cursive, said Susanne Dykes, an Academy of Richmond County special education and English teacher.

"It's an art, and unfortunately in education, we're going the way of teaching a skill," she said. About half her students write out their work in cursive.

Though cursive is not required, it's still faster for most students than printing, which could prove useful on tests such as the 90-minute Georgia high school writing test or the writing portion of the SAT.

A College Board news release noted, however, that just 15 percent of students wrote the 2006 SAT writing portion in cursive, and 85 percent used print. Alana Klein, spokeswoman for the College Board, said in an e-mail that the College Board doesn't recommend students choose either cursive or print, so they infer students are more comfortable using print.

Ms. Parks said 75 percent of her students print. Of Mr. Bagwell's students, 80 percent write in cursive, though his known preference for cursive might have had something to do with it, he said.

"I think penmanship says a lot about a person," Mr. Bagwell said.

Certain students embrace it as their thing, and are particularly good at it and can help other students, he said.

With the ubiquity of word processors and the "please print" requests on official documents, Ms. Parks said, cursive will eventually be relegated to signatures.

Mr. Bagwell also said cursive will eventually die out.

"Obviously, you can type anything that's important," he said.

Still, knowing cursive is important "just to be a finished person," he said.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or sarah.owen@augustachronicle.com.

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darlenepate 01/28/09 - 09:51 pm
The Georgia State Writing

The Georgia State Writing Test for 5th graders does not require cursive pemanship, nor does it include cursive in the grade scale for meeting state writing standards. My daughters, both college graduates, have not been expected to submit any assignment, large or small, in cursive since 5th grade. Yet, many job applications still require handwritten responses. Legibility is the ultimate goal. Spelling is not even a part of the report card in my school system located in metro Atlanta. It is included in the Writing grade. Paperless communication is the skill of the future. But, does it replace the traditional personalization of a well written note to a loved one?

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