Public schools are starting to remove cursive writing from their curriculum. Typing is being pushed earlier instead, the argument being that cursive is becoming an obsolete skill. With all the added pressures of standardized testing, administrators claim there just isn’t time to teach the practice. These decisions are being made in regards to keeping up with growing technology. However, are they as concerned with cultivating growing minds?
Why Children Need Cursive
There’s something about a little girl typing the name of a boy she likes over and over and over, that doesn’t have the same sweet innocence as a crush’s name scribbled across the back of a science folder.
Children are spending more time in front of screens now days than communicating with actual people, or paper for that matter. There’s no doubt that typing is an essential skill for today’s world; however, schools should not allow typing to solely replace writing by hand. The problem is not only removing a developmental skill by forgoing cursive handwriting, but increasing the exposure of over-stimulating technology at a very young age. It may be an overly romantic suggestion that cursive stay relevant because it is the art form of love letters, but it’s deeper than nostalgia. Cursive writing assists not only in fine motor skills and important cognitive developments, but provides a break for young minds constantly engaged by electronics.
According to Pshychologytoday.com, “Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity. School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.”
Key Benefits of Cursive
1. Improves fine motor skills
2. Reinforces learning and remembering
3. Improves creativity and clarifies thoughts
4. Gives young minds a break from technology
Cursive teaches and improves many of the same cognitive functions and fine motor skills as learning a musical instrument. Cursive writing engages multiple areas in both hemispheres of the brain. It requires much more communication between the hand and brain than typing and even manuscript writing does. As a result, information that is written is more easily remembered and reinforces learning. Also, the price tag on a pencil and notepad are much more pleasant than that of the violin. Plus, the noise, or lack there of, is also pleasant during those precious formative years. What would learning music be like if we only played simulated instruments on a digital device?
Typing instead of writing in cursive is similar to running on a treadmill versus on a track. Covering a lot longer distance in a shorter amount of time may be easier on the treadmill. However, your body would not be working as hard as it would be on a track. The brain does not have to work as hard to type as it does to write. As welcome as this may seem to most adults, not so much for kids. Children’s brains are rapidly changing and the extra challenge is excellent for optimal growth. Children writing on paper are also more likely to draw pictures and make side notes or diagrams as they write. These things actually help improve creativity and clarify the thought process.
Let them unplug
Children should be able to sit down with a pen and notepad to write without the ever present distractions that come along with computers and iPads. They should be able to cram a journal, filled with all their 3rd grade woes, in their backpack without worrying about breaking some pricey gadget. The environment we live in today is continuously connected by technology that values immediacy and social immersion online. An opportunity where learning can take place that requires patience, solitude, and undivided attention needs to be created if it is no longer available naturally. Schools should be wanting to support activities that give children this freedom.
It’s probably impossible to avoid mentioning the fact that some kindergarteners have iPhones already, and also a Facebook profile for themselves and their pet turtle. Crushes are probably not scribbled on folders as often any more, they more likely receive little emoticon hearts or winky faces. Technology is an inevitable part of your child’s life and learning future, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. We should make sure however, that the biggest lesson children learn is that they hold the potential to make technology great, and not the other way around.
What do you think? Is cursive still an important part of school curriculum?
5 Montessori Pre Writing Activities For Preschoolers
Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life says
I so agree with everything you are saying here. All of my kids did learn cursive, but my youngest got a very short intro to it, and it doesn’t seem to be considered important at all. It sounds like it is being phased out everywhere. I feel fortunate that my kids at least had a brief introduction to it. But they are all teenagers…it’s sad to think those coming up today won’t even know what cursive is.
Parenting Tips at Uplifting Families says
I am hoping that schools are still teaching kids how to write school. I know that I do more typing than writing that it makes my hand hurt when I have to write too much.
Kate Gladstone says
Please be aware that the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY report on cursive quickly turned out to have misrepresented the research which it cited (and which it claimed, incorrectly, to support cursive above the other forms of handwriting). As you read the comments-thread to that report, from beginning to end, you will increasingly note how many commenters call this to his attention and to the attention of other readers. You will also note that, by the end of the thread, the author of the report _changes_ _his_ _own_ _position_, and admits that his statements in the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY article had been without a solid factual backing: the research, plainly put, does not say what he had asserted that it said.
Do not take my own word for the above — read the thread yourself, in its entirety, to see his multitude of misrepresentations detected and successfully questioned by readers, and to see how he responded in the end.
Kate Gladstone says
Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)
Further research demonstrates that the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the print-writers nor the cursive writers. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.
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 quit 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 even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?
Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you stunningly graceful, adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, 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.
The much-ballyhooed difference in SAT scores between cursive writers and non-cursive writers is … brace yourself … 1/5 of a point on the essay exam. That’s all.
(Yes, I checked with the College Board — see below for the source info they sent me — because not one of the many, many media that mention the “slightly higher” difference actually states _how_much_”slightly higher” the difference is. The College Board researchers who found the difference note, in their findings that this one isn’t statistically significant: in other words, it’s so small that it’s less than the difference you’d expect if the same person took the same test twice. In fact, it’s even smaller than the score differences between males and females taking the SAT.)
So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:
/1/ either the claim provides no traceable source,
/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 perennially misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”),
/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!)
Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, then verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
The individuality of print-style (or other non-cursive style) 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.
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.
Handwriting research on speed and legibility:
/1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015
/2/ 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
/3 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
College Board research breakdown of SAT scores (the cursive/printing information is on page 5)
Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
(shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
Yours for better letters,
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
email@example.com • HandwritingThatWorks.com
Nan Jay Barchowsky says
Ms. Gladstone begs you to read all threads in Psychology Today. So do I, and then realize that technology and writing by hand can coexist, but cursive may be on the road to extinction, especially as one considers how cursive is taught.
Many fail to stop and think about current handwriting instruction. Children first learn to form print-like letters, writing them from top-to-bottom. Shapes and directionality of strokes are implanted in motor memory.
Then in either second or third grade the motor memory for forming letters is turned upside down! The strokes that form letters change sequence and direction for the sort of cursive that is commonly taught. It is difficult for many students. Instruction time is limited. Not enough to turn around that earlier motor memory that was implanted in the brain!
Handwriting, like any skill, needs consistent instruction.
Consider italic. It’s logical. It’s easy to teach and learn in minimal class time. There is never a change in starting points or directions of letter strokes. The beginner’s alphabet almost automatically evolves into a legible, fluent cursive. Italic is taught successfully in some USA schools and in other countries, notably Finland, the country with top educational rating globally. Please have a look: http://www.bfhhandwriting.com
Lindsey R. Allen says
Thank you all for your posts, I very much appreciate your feedback. To those concerned about my reference, I did go back and look through some of the posts. I ended up reaching out to the author himself because there was so much information to take in. Dr. Klemm’s response was as follows:
” I still think cursive is more challenging and therefore developmentally more useful, but I conceded that it needs to be taught well (it usually isn’t) and that learning italics first might expedite the learning of cursive.”
I perhaps was not completely successful in making my point clear. As I understand it, cursive is being removed from standard curriculum and the focus is switching to typing. I am not saying that there may not be other forms of handwriting that are even better than cursive, but I think we agree that handwriting is very beneficial. I would much prefer my child with a pen in hand over being in front of a computer screen, there is ample time for that as an adult. I don’t have a lot of knowledge on what it takes to make changes to school curriculum but it doesn’t seem very easy. It may be an easier battle to fight to keep cursive than implement an entirely new form. Mainly because they seem intent on skimming down the handwriting area all together. I really don’t have the answer to that one 🙂 Thank you all again for the awesome discussion!!
Leslie Fish says
Where did people get the idea that there’s no handwriting except print and Cursive? Cursive (technically Palmer-Method Cursive) is ONLY ONE of several forms of script writing, and very far from the best of them. Other forms — like Italic and Copperplate — are much more legible, easier to learn, quicker to teach, and retain their legibility long after the student leaves school.
Cursive, on the other hand, has a nasty tendency to degenerate into that illegible scribble for which doctors are so notorious (but unfortunately not alone), which has caused thousands of deaths from “medical error”, as any nurse or pharmacist can tell you. Yes, teach penmanship in the schools, but choose a better form than this! If only for all the lives it has cost us, Cursive deserves to die!
Betsy (Eco-novice) says
As a former teacher, I do not think cursive should be a part of the curriculum. I do think students would be better served by learning to type. I knew too many people in college who were horribly slow typers — it’s an ESSENTIAL skill today. Cursive is not. The only thing I use cursive for is to sign my name. I think learning one type of handwriting (print) is plenty. I’m not saying there should be more testing instead of cursive — what I think some people don’t see is HOW MUCH has been added to the curriculum with nothing being taken OUT. We have to prioritize, people! Maybe cursive could be an elective. I would rather my child get more time doing art, music, science, etc. than learn to write cursive. You could also teach it at home if it’s important to you. We can’t do everything, and we certainly cannot do everything well. Just my two cents : )
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had to learn cursive. Enough said.