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Cursive Is Regaining Popularity in U.S. Schools

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Following years of being left off of many elementary school curriculums, cursive handwriting is starting to resurface. As the Associated Press reports, public schools across the U.S. are making lessons in writing loopy, unbroken longhand a requirement.

It wasn't so long ago that learning cursive was considered a grade school rite of passage. But since the start of the new millennium, students have traded in their contraband gel pens for smartphones and transitioned to the digital world. Teachers have also switched focus from handwriting to typing. In recent years, schools in many states have abandoned the old-fashioned writing style in favor of courses on “keyboard proficiency.”

But something has shifted: In 2016, Alabama and Louisiana passed laws implementing cursive in all public schools. They joined 12 additional states with similar laws mandating proficiency in traditional script. One of the most encouraging signs for the future of handwriting happened in fall 2016, when the New York City public school system, the largest in America, recommended their teachers introduce students to cursive writing in the third grade.

New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis told the AP that cursive became an issue for her following a voter registration event she attended. After asking an 18-year-old to sign his name, she watched him spell it out in print, the only way he knew how to write by hand.

In addition to teaching kids how to sign their own names, those in the pro-cursive camp say the skill has other uses. Pre-computer era documents, such as letters written by an ancestor or a founding father, require a familiarity with cursive to read. Opponents, on the other hand, say that teaching cursive presents unnecessary hurdles to kids learning to read and write. And as a 2016 article from Nautilus pointed out, there’s virtually no research suggesting that cursive has any cognitive benefits.

Whether or not it's useful, some students in New York City at least seem to appreciate it. Third-grader Camille Santos told the AP that cursive is "actually like doodling a little bit." Senior Emily Ma said, "It's definitely not necessary but I think it's, like, cool to have it.”

[h/t U.S. News]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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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BBC

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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