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Kids and cursive Common Core fallout

Unintended consequences are beginning to sprout in the wake of U.S. education decisions.

For one thing, there is the move to do away with any concentration on handwriting other than in kindergarten and first grade. For another, there is the federal overreach on common standards.

A lengthy New York Times report last week on research done elsewhere says that a lot more than the ability to write in cursive is at stake regarding the scrapping of handwriting. Several studies have shown that handwriting engages portions of the brain that a keyboard does not.

"When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated," said a French psychologist. "There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental stimulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn't realize."

"Learning," said Stanislas Dehaene, "is made easier."

"When learning to write by hand," the Times noted, "children better generate ideas and retain information."

Who would have thunk it?

Don't think the fuss over "Common Core" standards is any big deal? It happens that those standards include ending the teaching of handwriting after the first grade.

Incidentally, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week that ends that state's adherence to Common Core.

"It has become very apparent to me that the word Common Core has become a word that is tainted, that is divisive, that has caused widespread concern throughout our state," Fallin said.

According to the Oklahoman newspaper, the standards "were developed in a state-led effort launched in 2009 through the National Governors Association, a group Fallin now heads. Meant to be rigorous and advance critical thinking, they were adopted voluntarily by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Oklahoma joins Indiana in repealing them."

Fallin faulted the Obama administration for using federal funds as either cudgel or reward on the issue, noting that Washington offers financial "incentives'' for those states that, like New Hampshire, go along with the standards.

Perhaps our own state board, which claims no local district need adopt the standards but is making it impossible to avoid them, can try this assignment: Write 100 times, in longhand, New Hampshire can do better than Common Core.

Eric Church
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