Will cursive become a lost art form? Not if these Wisconsin lawmakers can help it

Sharon Roznik:

The Nesvacil sisters of Ashwaubenon take their handwriting seriously.

Grace Nesvacil, now a freshman in high school, was named the nation’s top fifth grade hand-writer in the 2016 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. Her sister Evelyn was a semifinalist as a third grader, and another sister, Claire, earned a state award in the competition.

All three of the siblings attend Ashwaubenon schools, where curriculum instructor Jill Kieslich says they still teach cursive to students in second through fifth grade, although it’s not required as part of Wisconsin’s Academic Standards.

The sponsor of the contest, Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser company, is a longtime producer of writing, penmanship and grammar materials for schools. During the 1800s, founders Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser developed a cursive style that dominated classrooms for decades.

But cursive has been on the decline since the rise of personal computers. In 2010, when most states adopted Common Core curriculum standards meant to equalize education in America, nothing about cursive was mentioned. Today, teaching cursive has declined to the point that it’s not unusual to find teens and twenty-somethings barely able to decipher it. Often, children master typing on a computer, tablet or mobile phone before they feel comfortable writing by hand.