Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Cursive Writing No Longer Taught in Schools?

I was appalled to learn that cursive writing is no longer being taught in Louisiana schools.  According to different sources, 41 (or 46) states have eliminated the teaching of cursive. Keyboarding is taught in its place. 

 Teaching keyboarding is fine; it is logical; it is keeping up with the times.  However, discontinuing the teaching of cursive writing is (in my opinion) a mistake. 

Here are some dissenting voices:

The reason school systems give for discontinuing the practice of teaching what we used to call "real writing" or penmanship is that it is becoming obsolete. Sure it will, if everybody stops teaching kids how to do it. So will solving algebra equations and dissecting fetal pigs. Why do you think nobody can read hieroglyphics anymore? They stopped teaching it in Egyptian schools. And look what's happening over there today!
Those in favor of scratching chicken-scratch from the school curriculum of our state argue that people just don't use it anymore. They say that today's generation uses word processors and other electronic means of communication. They insist that the only thing they use cursive writing for is to sign their names on checks and other documents, and that pretty soon signatures also will be unnecessary.
excerpt from A Call to Keep Cursive Part of Public Education by Darrel Huckaby, educator, author, public speaker
Reasons to reconsider the elimination of teaching cursive (from an article in the Evansville Courier & Press:

No matter what is said, sometimes pen and paper are necessary tools of communication. Learning cursive is a form of discipline, much like learning the motions of ballet or yoga. It teaches the discipline of repetitive motion along with a feeling of accomplishment when the skill is mastered.
And from a neuropsychologist's point of view, learning cursive writing is a much-different skill than that of keyboarding.
According to an article in the Washington Post, "the neurological process that directs thought, through fingers, into written symbols is a highly sophisticated one."
The Chicago Tribune has written that "several studies have shown that good handwriting skills, taught at a young age, can help children express their thoughts more clearly."
From a cognitive development standpoint, research has shown that children who do not possess proficient handwriting skills produce simpler, briefer compositions.
As logic would dictate, students who print, rather than write in cursive, typically need more time to take notes or write essays for the SAT.
According to the College Board, SAT essays written in cursive had slightly higher average scores than those that were printed. (Currently, both SAT tests and Advanced Placement exams require handwritten essays.)

Research has shown that handwriting makes a difference in the perception of a student's knowledge and ideas.
Whether fair or not, legible handwriting may improve a student's test score, while messy handwriting can detract from it.
"In one academic study, first-graders who could write only 10 to 12 letters per minute were given 45 minutes of handwriting instruction for nine weeks. Their writing speed doubled, their expressed thoughts became more complex and their sentence construction skills increased," according to Wikipedia.
and from the same article:

Anthony Judson, a long-time educator and former school superintendent, agreed, saying, "Deciding not to teach cursive writing based upon other communication tools at our disposal, is like deciding not to teach mathematics due to the availability of computers and calculators.
"In my opinion, cursive writing is still a valuable communication technique which should be made available to our students. Instead of eliminating it from our curricula I believe we should be evaluating all of the testing forced upon our schools by politicians who, in the majority of cases, have little understanding of child development, individual learning styles or ability and achievement comparisons."
And David Mingle, an experienced instructor with whom I taught at a two-year college in Indiana — and who, not coincidentally, has beautiful penmanship — said, "Writing in cursive and in lettering (printing is performed by machines), develops who we are artistically and intellectually. It promotes individuality, thus promoting creativity."

During the conversation at Amelia's in which this topic was discussed, all of the mothers present said they would teach their own children cursive if the schools did not.  Ashley, a 4th grade teacher, said she still includes it in her class despite the fact it is no longer part of the curriculum.
No one is suggesting that teaching keyboarding is a mistake.  In today's world, keyboarding is a necessary skill.  That does not mean that eliminating cursive is a good idea.
What do you think?


  1. I think both should be taught - keyboarding and cursive. Luckily, here they are. My son (in 7th grade) really hates it - but he hates all forms of physical writing. My daughter (in 3rd grade) loves it - she is just learning this year.

  2. I'm with you. This is so frustrating. I was glad to read that I am not alone in thinking this is negative legislation. Cursive handwriting is one of the joys of being human.

  3. I remember the argument that when velcro on shoes came out, kids would not learn how to tie their shoes. And, with digital clocks, kids couldn't read the face of a clock. Some basic skills reinforce other skills. I cannot imagine a person not being able to write cursively. They should know that basic skill whether they use it or not.

    I think learning cursive is about like learning anything--it just takes practice. In our fast paced world, practice is not something most people want to do.

    On another note, is keyboarding a new name for typing? I see lots of people pecking away at keyboards/IPhones with 2 fingers. Learning to "really type" is a serious skill too. I remember spending many HS lunch hours in the typing room trying to master typing.

  4. If any of today's kids want to be historians or research their family history, they're going to have to find someone to read the records to them. It takes expertise to read early American records; even more to read old English records and records from other countries. The way we form some letters today is very different from the old days, not to mention the changes in the language.

  5. I've been watching this issue over the last few years, appalled. I can't tell you how many times over the last many years I have had a younger person comment on how neat and pretty my handwriting is. Well, it's not all that great IMO; it is just well formed, and neatly done, all according to the way I was taught starting in the 3rd grade. Nothing special. But it's been commented on, by people not just in their 20s but some in their 30s and older, as well. And they almost always say that their own writing is awful, that they never had to practice in school, when I tell how we had to practice loops and circles and spirals, over and over in our handwriting books (I loved those books!) It is so weird that something that was such a part of our education is now becoming (supposedly) obsolete. 3rd grade was a milestone because that is when we "got to" learn cursive, something we all looked forward to as a sign of growing up...so weird, so very weird... (And yes, I am having trouble with the "new" light bulbs, too...I like to save energy and the planet and I'm a tree hugger , but I'm an old fart and I like my old light bulbs, darn it! )

  6. I quite agree and find it sad that cursive is going by the wayside. I kind of wonder if people felt the same way when Spencerian penmanship stopped being taught though.

  7. Kim - I agree. Both should be taught for many reasons. I'm glad that your children still have the benefit!

    Sam - I find it difficult to understand how any school system can justify eliminating cursive...but evidently, most states have done so.

    Debra - Cursive does take practice (and improves fine motor skills), but I think time is a factor. So much time is spent teaching to various tests, that finding time to fit in cursive is a problem.

    You've made a good point about the texting with thumbs only, Deborah.

    Barbara - Yes, research often involves the ability to read not only cursive, but older styles of writing. Children who don't learn cursive will be stymied by family documents and letters.

    Also, teachers will not be able to expect students to read what is written on blackboards in a few years time. Unless they print.

    DebbyMc - :) I remember how exciting it was to be ready to learn cursive. It was a milestone, a signal of achievement! Not that the education system will re-consider, I'm sure, but there is more lost than gained by eliminating cursive.

  8. Valerie - I'm sure they did! Still, being unable to read the letters and personal notes of anyone a few years older than themselves is a loss.

  9. IMO cursive still needs to be taught. Makes me wonder what's next.

  10. Connie - Well, since many curriculums no longer require physical education, art, or music, and have now eliminated cursive writing, I wonder, too!

  11. Way back, in the dark ages, penmanship was considered highly important. It was diligently practiced, and fine handwriting was something to aspire to. I used to have nice handwriting, but I "keyboard" so much now I have lost much of that skill. But, we are evolving, and while it is sad that "real writing" is no longer being taught in schools, good keyboarding is probably a more practical skill.


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