Monique McGowan sharpens a No. 2 pencil, straightens her posture, and sharply slants her notebook to prepare for her weekly lesson in cursive. She and other third graders at Horrall Elementary School in San Mateo, Calif., have perfected ascenders and descenders, and their letters' tails and legs hit the appropriate base lines—even the tricky capitals G, Q, and S. But Monique, who plays games on her dad's laptop at home, says she'd rather punch a keyboard than write cursive.

"Computers are better," the 9-year-old says. "With typing, you don't have to erase when you make

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