Is cursive writing becoming a thing of the past?

Posted by Cheryl Perkins on September 16, 2013

The English alphabet, both upper and lower cas...

I can’t tell you how many loops and swirls I practiced as a youngster, but I do still use cursive handwriting even in this digital age. I have to admit though, I use penmanship less and less. But for many kids, cursive is something that they may no longer be taught. You see, handwriting is not part of the Common Core State Standards. If you haven’t heard of Common Core, it is the recently established academic guidelines now adopted by 45 of the 50 states.

Already, many public schools have completely stopped teaching cursive and are using the time to build technology skills. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There is just something about cursive writing that gives communication a personal, human touch. Research shows something else that is very interesting: At the Indiana University, researchers found that writing by hand activates areas of the brain that don’t get tapped during typing. Another study, conducted by the University of Washington, revealed that when elementary-school students composed essays on paper rather than on-screen, they wrote more and faster.

What are your thoughts? Do we see the handwriting on the wall for cursive instruction?

Comments

  1. KateGladstone says:

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named. “Read Cursive,” of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, adds brain cells, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant. (For instance: the Indiana University study you mention is usually described by cursive’s exalters as a study of cursive versus printing. It was actually a study of keyboarding versus printing; the subjects were in kindergarten, and cursive was neither taught nor examined in this study. Therefore, please explain why you are citing a study of printing versus keyboarding as evidence for cursive.)

    So far — in this article, this thread, and elsewhere — whenever a devotee of cursive has claimed the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim (of research support for cursive) provides no traceablew source,

    or

    /2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., an Indiana University research study comparing print-writing with keyboarding is usually misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”),

    or

    /3/ the claimant _correctly_ quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

    SOURCES:

    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf
    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
    http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g

    TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
    http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To

    HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
    http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

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