Bill Would Require Cursive, Multiplication Memorization in SC

A bill that would require South Carolina students to learn how to read and write cursive and memorize multiplication tables comes up for a vote Tuesday at the Statehouse. North Carolina passed a similar law last year.

Most states no longer mandate that schools teach cursive, and it's not required as part of the Common Core Standards that most states have adopted. With so much of work, and everyday life, being done on computers and smartphones, schools are now teaching keyboarding.

Diane DeFord, a Language and Literacy professor at the University of South Carolina, says she used to teach third grade students cursive and thinks being able to read and write it is a valuable skill to have. But she doesn't think it should be a requirement. “That, to me, does not make any sense at all,” she says of the bill to mandate cursive. “It's going to be costly. There's now going to be another issue that testing has to take place.”

Supporters of requiring cursive say it has been shown to improve hand-eye coordination and is usually much faster than writing in script. Studies have also shown that students who take notes by hand remember more of the information than students who type notes on a computer. Students who don't know how to read cursive cannot read important original documents, like the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

But those who don't think it should be a requirement say cursive is needed less and less often because of the spread of technology.

Ed Dickey, a math education professor at USC, says he also doesn't agree with the bill's requirement for students to memorize multiplication tables.

“A child who can't remember that 7 times 9 is 63 is going to have problems in certain types of mathematics. But I'd rather have them learn it the ways that countries like Singapore teach it, by emphasizing skills and concept development at the same time. Stating that mathematics is just to be memorized is going to create another generation of kids who view mathematics as something they can't do,” he says.

The bill comes up for debate in a House K-12 Education subcommittee Tuesday afternoon at the Statehouse.

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