Why Cursive?

Common Core state standards have removed (among other things) the teaching of cursive to students. There are many reasons this is a bad idea. First and foremost is that cursive has been shown to be an important developmental skill as this anonymous teacher’s testimony notes.

I am so upset that cursive has been removed from the Core! I had such a successful year last year teaching cursive. When I ask students during the first week of school what they are excited to learn in 3rd grade, at least 10 students say learning to write in cursive! I already had 2nd graders telling me they were so excited to be in 3rd grade so they could learn cursive. I am then supposed to deny them something they want to learn!? That is absurd! Even before the actual cursive instruction began, I had many students trying cursive on their own and asking if they were doing it correctly. My students became better readers because they learned cursive last year, seeing italics or cursive in books did not confuse them any more. Most of my students handwriting improved considerably once they could write in cursive, especially the boys’ handwriting. If I can’t teach cursive, the students will miss out on developing those fine motor skills- many suggest typing, but my students will only get keyboarding once a week, and yet I have set aside 20 minutes each day for them to learn cursive. I think it is also a way of self expression. I write in cursive all of the time; my signature is part of who I am. So, this generation will not be able to create a signature for themselves? Nor will they be able to read any handwriting other than print. It is so much fun for me and my students when I write on the board in cursive and they can read it! How empowering for them! They are all able to write faster in cursive, and even in third grade they realize this. They are learning to concentrate, and focus their attention- which is very helpful for all other areas of learning. They are learning to slow down, and watch what they are doing. They are learning the you have to work hard to get good at something, and yet they improve quickly enough that they are motivated to stick with it, they can see week by week that they are getting better. They are learning that practicing something over and over will help you get better. These skills are, in my opinion, only found in handwriting. There is nothing else that I can teach them that they can see improvement day by day, and that they can see themselves getting better at. Writing, math, science, social studies- none of these can show the student progression, nor help in motivating a student to keep trying. I am hoping that I can change my administrator’s mind about letting me teach cursive, but if they don’t I will certainly make sure the parents of my students know that I feel it is an important skill and I suggest that they teach their students at home.

Secondarily, almost every historical document from the founding of America, as well as many genealogical records are written in cursive. Without this skill these documents become unreadable. We should not favor keyboarding while removing cursive in spite of what special interest groups want.

Here are some resources on why cursive is so important.

For starters, 73% of parents said not to remove cursive in this KSL poll

Someone else sent me this list of resources.

There was an educational summit on this issue in January 2012, “Handwriting in the 21st Century?” hosted by Zaner-Bloser and the American Association of School Administrators.

http://www.hw21summit.com

You can get the whitepaper here:

http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/H2948_HW_Summit_White_Paper_eVersion.pdf

Other Articles:

“How Replacing Cursive Instruction with Keyboarding Fluency in Elementary Schools Hampers Brain Development.”

“Intelligence and the Lost Art of Cursive Writing”

“How Cursive Writing Affects Brain Development”

A summary page statement from Zaner-Bloser

3 Responses to Why Cursive?

  • I am an artist and have a teaching certificate from Idaho in secondary Ed. and know from experience that the eye hand coordination is important to develope.
    PS Cursive should be taught before block letters because of the fact that it is easier for the brain to stay engaged and think if the pencil stays on the paper rather than being lifted with every stroke of directional change.

  • Donna L Abele says:

    Hello Anne,
    The earliest I remember cursive was third grade. In boarding school we were taught “The Palmer Method”. To this day I cannot find a lesson that teaches Palmer Method Penmanship.
    When our children and grandchildren were little and they wanted to write.They made circles everywhere and to them this was very exciting.
    Our granddaughter makes circles and creates a Happy face! Halloween is just around the corner. Will the Government Schools forbid the children from making their own pumpkins?
    God Bless ,Abele Catholic Homeschool’98-Sandy Ut

  • A lot of people, lately, have made lots of noise about the death of cursive handwriting. They don’t want cursive to die. Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter?

    Research shows that the fastest, most legible handwriters join some letters, not all: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, using print-like shapes for letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citations below.) Yet cursive programs and teachers strongly discourage such practices. Students learning cursive are taught to join all letters, and to use different shapes for cursive versus printed letters. (These requirements do not align with the research findings above.)

    What about reading cursive? This indeed matters vitally. However, cursive’s cheerleaders forget
    that one can learn to read a style without producing it. (This is fortunate. If we had to write a style to read it, we would have to learn to read all over again whenever a new font was invented.)

    It is odd that — so far — the legislators clamoring for cursive are almost all Republicans. (Doesn’t the Republican party portray itself as the champions of minimized government, of minimal regulatory interference in education and elsewhere? Why, then, urge government control over handwriting?)

    It is even odder that the documents the cursive clamorers most often name (as their evidence that we need to write cursive style for the sake of reading it) are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Some material in each document — the Constitution’s “We the People,” for instance — is penned, not in cursive, but in elaborate “Olde Englishe” Blackletter. Yet no legislator crusading for a cursive writing mandate (on the grounds that we need to read our founding documents) is crusading also for a mandate of Blackletter.

    Someone who has never seen cursive handwriting does, almost always, need to be taught to read it — because cursive is admittedly far harder to read than even the most elaborate Blackletter calligraphy. Simply reading cursive, though, can be taught in 30 – 60 minutes: even to a five- or six-year-old, once the child can read other writing. Why not teach children to read old-fashioned handwriting, and to write in some simpler and more efficient way themselves?

    Most adults, after all, no longer use cursive. (In 2012, a survey of handwriting teachers attending a conference sponsored by Zaner-Bloser — a well-known handwriting publisher which strongly advocates for cursive — revealed that only 37% of those surveyed actually used cursive for their own handwriting; another 8% wrote in print. The majority — 55% — wrote a hybrid: some elements of print-writing, some elements of cursive writing. Given this, and given our knowledge of how the clearest and most rapid handwriters produce their writing, how sane or practical is it for any legislator to demand compulsory cursive?)

    Of course, the idolators of cursive have other arguments. They sometimes assert that cursive has powers beyond any other form of handwriting. Those making such claims include, increasingly, state legislators striving to persuade their constituents and their fellow legislators that the responsibilities of the state must include requiring all students to learn and perform a cursive style. Much of the speechmaking on that issue asserts the existence of research which (we are assured by the speechmakers) proves indubitably that writing in cursive makes you smarter, or that writing in cursive makes you more graceful, or that writing in cursive teaches you prettier manners, or that writing in cursive confers any number of other gifts and blessings which are no more evident among the cursive crusaders than among the rest of us.
    (To my personal knowledge, some of the rah-rah-cursive crowd go even further. They assert, at least in private and to sympathetic ears, that using a cursive style of handwriting is important for fully human cognition and/or morality. The accuracy of that claim, along with its probable effects if believed, may best be left to the reader’s own judgment.)

    Now and then, the rah-rah-cursive cheerleaders assert that their claims come from research. When they so claim, they rarely give citations either up front or on request. When — unusually — a citation appears, the cited research proves— always, so far — to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the person presenting it as favoring cursive.

    One example, “The Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Indiana University’s Dr. Karin Harman James, compares the reading performance of kindergarteners who were learning either to keyboard or to print.
    In 2012, James’ paper was distributed to a session of the Indiana legislature in 2012, by a state Senator — Jean Leising — who informed her fellow legislators that James’ research compared print-writing with cursive to the advantage of the latter. Eventually, someone there must have read James’ paper: because, within days of the Senator’s statement, legislative support for her bill plummeted from 95% to zero. Though the bill was shelved, the Senator reintroduced it this month: it has passed Indiana’s Senate, and is now before their House.

    What about signatures? Is cursive needed there? Questioned document examiners inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow cursive rule-making at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

    The individuality of writing in print (or in other non-cursive styles) writings is further shown by this: six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the writing on an unsigned assignment) which of her 25 or 30 students wrote it.

    Further: whatever your schoolteachers may have been told by their schoolteacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Hard to believe? Don’t take my word: ask any attorney.)

    In short, neither common sense, nor fact, nor legal necessity, supports the idolatry of cursive. Remember that research about the fastest, most legible handwriters? Most people who write that way were never taught that way. They likely stumbled on those useful habits themselves: consciously or unconsciously discarding what didn’t work in the printing or cursive styles they’d been taught, keeping the best components of what was left — which meant breaking some of the rules they had been taught.

    Why leave it to chance and breaking rules? There are books and (in the texting age) software designed to teach those better habits from the get-go. (Which are they? This is not the place for product reviews — though I welcome reader inquiries.)

    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

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