Baby Boomers going through elementary school recall how earning that S for Satisfactory in penmanship was a major deal, and helped build your ticket for grade advancement.

But today, those of us who ever needed help in deciphering a doctor's handwritten prescription sees the clock ticking. Cursive writing, one of 'the three Rs' in that primary school experience may soon follow the manual typewriter to extinction.

In today's digitized 21st century society, where even signatures are done electronically, the keyboard, whether on a computing device or cellphone, has replaced the pen and paper. Penmanship has been on a steady decline since the 1970s.

The decision over whether to teach cursive writing in schools has been much debated and many school districts have been de-emphasizing cursive for some time. Some states still leave the option open for school districts. Pennsylvania does not require cursive writing instruction but leaves the decision to individual school districts.

Critics of cursive writing instruction see it as a waste of time, arguing that in this culture of global economy, students must be proficient with a keyboard, not in handwriting.

But some states like Indiana are reconsidering. In 2011, the Indiana Department of Education decided to no longer require schools to teach cursive writing, joining 45 other states. Recently, some Hoosier lawmakers introduced a bill requiring all public school districts and all accredited private elementary schools to teach cursive. Sen. Jean Leising, sponsor of the Indiana bill, feels cursive is a skill children will need as adults.

Other proponents say teaching cursive reinforce literacy and helps children develop a unique identity that can only be found in cursive. Cursive also reportedly improves neural connections in the brain, helping develop motor skills.

Others have more practical concerns. If some catastrophic event took our computers offline for a length of time, those without cursive skills would have to communicate by writing in block letters, a laborious and time-consuming chore.

Historical purists also feel that "reproductions" of the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States, which were done in cursive, are misleading. When the art of cursive reading and writing is removed, they fear that the founding document of our nation could be re-written on the Internet and no one would know.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com