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‘Sound of Us’ tells stories Northeast Ohioans want to tell — in their own voices.

I never learned cursive. Is that as big a problem as my mom thinks?

Ameer Eatmon sits in a classroom at Richmond Heights Secondary School.
Keith Freund
Ideastream Public Media
Ameer Eatmon, Jr. wondered why he never learned cursive writing in school.

One night, my mom was cooking chicken Alfredo for dinner. She asked me to sign my name on a permission slip for school.

Instead of signing my name in cursive, I printed it. She gave me with a suspicious look and said, “Don’t they teach you cursive handwriting in school? They need to start teaching you about writing in cursive.”

That wasn’t the first time my mom has complained about me not knowing cursive. She says I’m about to be grown, and she thinks my handwriting is unprofessional.

I wasn’t about to keep listening to her complain. So I started to wonder, why did they take cursive out of schools? And how is that affecting me?

The disappearance of cursive

Alicia Trescott, a site coordinator at Richmond Heights Secondary School, told me that a lot of schools in Ohio stopped teaching cursive in elementary school because of something called Common Core, starting in about 2010.

"It started as federal legislation, and states could adopt it if they wanted to," Ms. Trescott said. "It describes what students should know at the end of each grade level."

She said cursive writing wasn't included in those grade-by-grade standards.

Eventually, parents started complaining about how students couldn’t sign their name and couldn’t read other people’s cursive handwriting. So in 2019, the state of Ohio passed a law that added cursive back into the curriculum.

Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, spoke in support of the law in 2018. She was a state representative at the time, and now she’s a state senator.

Ohio State Senator Teresa Fedor has been an advocate for restoring cursive instruction to schools.
Ohio State Sen. Teresa Fedor has been an advocate for restoring cursive instruction to schools.

"It's just so sad that we are not teaching our children how to write cursive handwriting," Fedor said, addressing her fellow state representatives. "We've even heard grandparents who write letters to their grandchildren, and they didn't realize [their grandchildren] couldn't read the cursive writing."

What she said made me think: Some kids really don't understand what people are writing when they write in cursive. And that is sad.

My auntie loves writing in cursive on my birthday cards. I see the heart in what she writes and I know it’s a good message, but I don't know what she wrote. I just pretend I do.

A first try

So, one day I decided to give writing cursive a shot. My social studies teacher, Mr. Delgado, stayed after class and gave me a sheet showing the alphabet in cursive.

I got out my notebook and tried to write out some terms from the blackboard, like "supply and demand."

Ameer Eatmon Jr. of Richmond Heights Secondary School tries writing in cursive.
Justin Glanville
Ideastream Public Media
Ameer Eatmon, Jr. of Richmond Heights wasn't happy with his initial attempts to write in cursive.

Mr. Delgado called me a natural. But I wasn’t happy with how my writing looked. You could see where I kept stopping and starting.

Having smoother writing is actually one of the reported benefits of learning cursive. One study found that people who know cursive also spell better. And they have an easier time remembering words and putting together sentences than people who only print.

That all makes sense to me. When you learn cursive, you have to spend extra time writing with a pen and paper. There’s no autocorrect to do the thinking for you.

Lost and found

I found out that since the state law restoring cursive instruction passed in 2019, my school has started teaching cursive again, starting in third grade.

Ameer Eatmon, Jr.'s Original Music
Ameer Eatmon, Jr. composed this original music to accompany his story.

I’m glad they started teaching it again. But learning about all the benefits, I’m mad that I didn’t get to learn cursive myself.

Here’s my advice. If your kid is not learning cursive in their elementary school, you can always start teaching it at home or advise the teachers to teach it.

When kids learn cursive, they can understand everyone else’s way of writing — and that’s important because we all need to understand each other.

Ameer Eatmon Jr. is an 11th grader at Richmond Heights Secondary School. He produced this story with Ideastream Public Media's Justin Glanville.

Justin Glanville is the deputy editor of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.