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Learning to Write in Cursive Might Not Be as Important as Your Teachers Told You

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There is plenty of scientific evidence indicating that writing by hand is an important skill. Compared to typing, writing by hand seems to activate the brain in ways that help you process and remember information. Whether you need to learn cursive to access the full benefits of writing by hand, however, is another story.

KQED recently highlighted science writer Philip Ball’s dive into whether cursive is more beneficial for kids’ learning than printing at Nautilis. There’s no conclusive research to show that learning cursive is uniquely beneficial, Ball writes, quoting neuroscientist Karin Harman James, who studies early brain development. Ball continues:

"James cautions that the issue is difficult to study because it’s hard to find children whose educational situation differs only in the style of handwriting. What’s more, a lot of the ‘evidence’ that does get quoted is rather old and of questionable quality, and some of the findings are contradictory. Simply put, our real understanding of how children respond to different writing styles is surprisingly patchy and woefully inadequate."

There is some research that has found that cursive aids dyslexic students, in part because it doesn’t require taking the pencil off the paper as often, but other research shows that because cursive adds yet another layer of complexity to writing, kids can learn to write more quickly, and write more legibly and accurately, using manuscript.

With the lack of scientific consensus about whether one type of writing is superior for learning, it’s clear that school policies that require cursive are more about culture than research. Cursive is required as early as kindergarten in France, and in some U.S. states, students are required to proficiently write in cursive by a certain point in their elementary school career (fifth grade in Alabama, third grade in California).

Given how deeply parents and people who write education policy feel about cursive—"People talk about the decline of handwriting as if it’s proof of the decline of civilization," Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, recently wrote in The New York Times—it’s not likely to disappear from schools anytime soon.

[h/t KQED]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
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As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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