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Alabama law mandates cursive writing in schools, parents express mixed views

These days, many school assignments are completed online and essays are typed before being turned in. But a new state law in Alabama requires that schools teach children how to write in cursive.

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Lexi's Law, which went into effect Aug. 1, requires cursive handwriting to be taught by the end of third grade in all of the state’s public schools.

Cursive writing lessons will begin in second grade with instruction for how to write lower-case and upper-case letters. By third grade, students should be proficient in writing words and sentences in cursive. The writing practice is to be continued in fourth and fifth grades, the Montgomery Adviser reported.

"It's an ongoing process, just like reading. You start reading, and you read smaller words than you graduate to bigger words, and I think cursive is the same way," Stephanie Odle, an Alabama mother of five in favor of the law, told WBMA. "You can write your name, but there's more to cursive than writing your name."

Lexi's Law gets its name from State Rep. Dickie Drake, who sponsored the bill after his granddaughter, Lexi, said she wanted to learn "real writing."

"She was in the first grade and wanted to learn 'real writing,'" Drake told TODAY Parents. "After much research of schools in the state of Alabama, I found that it was not being taught all over the state -- hit and miss … This bill is for all my grandchildren and others just like them."

Cursive writing has always been a requirement in the state, but the new law requires schools to impose more standardized teaching methods, with benchmarks each school year to certify they are meeting proficiency standards. Teachers will be given more specific instructional plans, and superintendents will have to sign off that students are meeting the requirements.

State legislatures in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have passed bills and enacted similar mandates in schools to require teaching cursive.

Reactions from parents have been mixed.

Jared and Chelsea Jones are foster parents that say cursive requires less muscle control for their children, who have fine motor issues.

Andrea Overman, a teacher at Alabama Christian Academy, said cursive writing is easier to read than print.

"With cursive all letters start on the baseline, which is the same place and therefore less confusing," Overman told the Adviser. "Individual words are connected with spaces between words, which helps with word recognition."

One New York mother said she would "definitely feel sad" if cursive writing was taken away from her 6-year-old daughter's curriculum.

"Even if these kids are mostly typing when they grow up, I would still like her to learn script," Lyla Gleason said. 

But others disagree.

"When you shake through the arguments, it becomes clear that the driving force keeping cursive alive is really just nostalgia and romanticism," a June Vice.com column states. "For the average person, it’s a skill that will likely not be retained and will definitely not be needed."

"Is this handwriting requirement based on anything other than the argument that we learned it and turned out fine?" wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a dad and the deputy opinions editor at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, in another column. "It would be nice if my daughter learned cursive, but not at the expense of her falling behind her counterparts around the world, whose fingers will be flying over keys."

A 2013 national survey of 612 elementary school teachers found 41 percent no longer incorporated cursive writing into their lesson plans.

Read more at TODAY Parents.

University of Chicago won't support 'trigger warnings,' 'intellectual safe spaces'

A letter sent out by University of Chicago officials warned incoming students that they won't find any "intellectual safe spaces" on the school's campus.

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The letter goes on to acknowledge that the university is committed to "freedom of inquiry and expression" and encourages each student to challenge and broaden their perspectives on issues.

"You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement," the letter read. "At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

The letter pointed students to more information on freedom of expression and quotes a former president of the university, Hanna Holborn Gray, as saying that "education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think."

The University of Chicago is ranked as one of the top and most selective universities in the country. Less than 8 percent of the more than 31,000 people who applied to enter the class of 2020 were accepted by the school, according to The Chicago Maroon.

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