Cursive: The New Elective?

This article talks about how in some schools cursive is being phased out as “old school” and no longer necessary, being taught in third grade if at all.

I read it with some interest, since as a HS parent I have occasional pangs of guilt that I don’t make my kids do any kind of cursive or handwriting practice.  I have wondered if I should make up more fun ways to practice it, if I’m harming their future selves in any way.

I’m actually kind of glad to hear that schools are phasing it out.  Now if we do cursive at home, we’re ahead of the game.  If we don’t, we’re just following the national standards.  😉  And really, who besides grade school teachers really writes exactly as we were taught in elementary school?  I know I like the fact that my handwriting is distinctively mine.

My friend Tiffany is from England, where their cursive is “joined up writing” and many of the letters are completely different from ours.  She has a hard time even reading American cursive.  Her handwriting is exactly what I teach my kids that theirs should be:  legible and attractive.

That said, Victoria took an interest in cursive this year and has been happily teaching herself from old workbooks and practicing lots — even on the beach last week.

This is my kind of cursive practice, incidentally.  🙂

What do you think?  Do you teach cursive?

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12 thoughts on “Cursive: The New Elective?

  1. i have a great laminated placemat looking thing that shows how to write the alphabet in cursive (capital on one side, lower case on the other). got it at target in the dollar section. when she feels like it, she can work on it.

    i did encourage her to learn how to write her name in cursive, but i’ve not forced the issue other than that.

    i have been mentioning to her that it might be fun for her to do her spelling lesson in cursive. so far she’s not going for it. and its really not that important to me, so i’ve not pushed it.

    i figure its the sort of thing we’ll play with here and there, not a biggie. i am glad you wrote about them phasing out cursive because i feel the same as you. we’re ahead of the game if we do it. 🙂
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..my happy girl =-.

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  2. Interesting article. I wonder if that will happen here in Australia. We don’t do handwriting practice at all – I tried copywork for a while with Billy but it was causing great angst so I backed off. I can see slow improvement in his writing, but as he’s a 7 yo boy I’m not too concerned – yet 🙂 (Ask me in a couple of years lol) Cursive is still a long way off for us – if we do it. My own handwriting is a real hybrid – mostly print with a few cursive letters thrown in.
    .-= Kez´s last blog ..Our week of learning – 20th Sept – Just life lived well! =-.

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  3. We don’t do cursive and we hardly do any writing at all. I just want my kids writing to be legible and to most people that is going to be print and not cursive. I know a lot of people can’t read cursive because it does become personal, sometimes I can’t read my own cursive!

    We do write letters to friends and family every Tuesday (Tea Tuesday we call it.) So they at least get that writing done.
    .-= Liese´s last blog ..Fall =-.

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  4. Chiming in late 🙂 The only time I write in cursive myself is when I’m in a hurry. I learnt the British-style of cursive writing too back in Malaysia so it seems a little tough for me to try teach it here. I did consider it once when DS expressed interest but above all the other things he wants to do cursive is taking a backseat…way way way back 🙂
    .-= Suji´s last blog ..Cool Science Stuff And A Hot Reviewer =-.

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  5. I worry about this, yes I remember when my teacher started to make us write in cursive instead of printing. I could never get my work done in time. yet what about signing checks, and loans, and morgages. Our signature is almost as uniquely ours as our fingerprints are. To take this knowlegde and learning from students is not a good thing in my eyes. Sorry, but I don’t like cursive being thrown aside.

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    • I think people can easily develop a personal signature without learning “proper” cursive, though. After all, how many signatures look anything like the cursive we are taught? If we signed our name the way we were taught to, all of our signatures would look alike. 🙂 Just a thought!

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  6. another thought. I’ve read of so many people trying to copy signatures, takes time to learn how…the movies show. So don’t you think its important. and what about autographs, and signing a poem or book, or painting that our children have become famous for. printing is easier to mimic, and copy. Identity fraud would and could be even worse than it is now. ekks. Pitence, time ,love and tederness, in teching good cursive, and uniqness is well worth the time and effort. Lord knows that I would never
    “print” my name on the rent check, orany check for that matter.:)

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  7. Alicia;

    Agreed, yet cursive is an art form to us. Docters have made it so much so even pharmacys have trouble…yet to print it or to stamp it with an ink pad thing, could more easily be stolen or used by others. My child for example. being left handed, she has always battled with cursive. Until pressure levels dropped in other school areas, by homeschooling for a couple of years. She is now perfecting her cursiveautograph signiture. For all her writtings and artwork. X marks the spot where name should be given is for those who can’t write. I love cursive now. I even pratice it with my non writting hand, and even can tell what kind of mood I’m in by using cursive. very unique. Alicia, I like your thoughts. I Also would like to add, that with proper training, then also add our own artistic ability . how autographs…(that at adult age, can sign our lives into place of owning) must be neat, yet still can be our ownself. Hope this makes sense as well.:)

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  8. I was taught to write in cursive by my great-grandmother and my grandparents. Learning to write legibly was important as computers weren’t really available until I was in high school, and even then weren’t much more than glorified word processors or fancy calculators. Print is really a means of honing gross motor skills whilst cursive is a means of honing fine motor skills which become important not only for writing but also handling tools such as screwdrivers. I taught my two oldest children to write using sticks in the wet sand on the beach in front of our house and cursive introduced around age 7-8. Our youngest was taught to write by the public schools and cursive was not emphasized. He was also taught whole reading without any skills in phonics. His reading, writing and spelling skills all lag behind his older siblings as he has no decoding skills (phonics) and his writing is much less legible making it difficult for his teachers and even other students to read. Cursive writing was taught not only for speed but also to provide a standard from which to work when trying to decipher another person’s writing. While everyone talk about always having computers in the schools, many schools do not have the luxury for more than 2 or 3 computers in the classroom and if they are luck a computer lab with 20-30 computers. Many students in poorer areas do not even have a computer in the home. How about the time when you go the store and you can’t check out because the clerk can’t write up your order or calculate your bill or your change because they can’t read, write or do simple math calculations because the stores computers went down or they lost power? In days gone by,the cashier would have simply pulled out a pen and a receipt book and written up a receipt that would be later entered into the sales records. Many times I have been an exhibitor at an outdoor craft sale where there has been no access to electricity for the luxury of a notebook computer. Therefore my sales kit includes an old fashion reciept book, a printed sales tax table and a notebook and pen. Another situation I find writing to be handing is when dealing with a deaf customer as I am not proficient with more than the basic signed alphabet and so being able to communicate via the written word is vital. Having traveled outside the United States I also have found that a pen and paper can be helpful even though I may speak 5 other languages, sometimes the other person doesn’t speak those languages well but can write one of them fluently and unfortunately an US keyboard doesn’t accomodate cyrillic, japanese, standardized chinese or some letters specific to the language such as ä without either memorizing the uni-code for that letter or using a tool such as Character map to select, copy and then paste that letter into the text. At these times, writing either in block print or cursive which I can write faster than I can type is more expedient. BTW it took me nearly 1 full minute to open the program Character map, locate the ä in the map, highlight it and then select it, return to this page and then select control+v to paste it. Since all 3 of my children have studied or are studying 1 or more foreign languages in high school or in college, this is relevent, especially with many states mandating 2 or more years of foreign language as a requirement for entrance into college and some institute it as a requirement for graduating high school.
    Also, when was the last time you had to write out a calculus or differential equations problem out on a computer? Another case when taking notes using handwriting is more efficient.
    So while cursive itself may not be of the utmost importance the ability to be able to use something other than a keyboard and the ability to think and carry out everyday tasks without the electronic luxuries we take for granted today is.
    As to the person who said they send off a text or an IM to people.. you are simply lazy and it shows a complete lack of respect for the person to whom you wrote that 30 second “Thank you” text. Thank you notes and other letters and cards have more to do with letting the other person know how much you respect them and how much you appreciated the effort put forth. If I received an IM thank you, you would be removed from my list of people for future invitations. Unfortunately, most communication amongst people today consists of nothing longer than that contained in a twitter message. No wonder we don’t have world peace. Noone wants to put forth the time and effort to communicate with anyone else if they have to spend more than 20 seconds on it.

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  9. Pingback: » Cursive and World Peace Magic and Mayhem

  10. I read your reply Lisa and most of your writing examples aren’t about cursive, but about writing legibly.

    Most of the adults I know write [on paper] in a mishmash of printed and cursive and letters made up in their own style. Adults make their own writing once they are away from “school outside the home” and aren’t required by someone else to write in a way that school deems ‘right’.

    You seem to think that all the worlds woes can be traced to NOT teaching children cursive, phonics and what they called in my high school — ‘CMS’ or community math skills. [The only people that took this class were the ones that weren’t in a college placement degree program and so only needed one year of math and they didn’t want to or couldn’t get through Algebra.]

    I also notice that nobody taught you how to proof read what you write or how to use grammar properly. I guess war is coming soon.

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  11. A lot of people, lately, have been making a lot 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 and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation: Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 2001: on-line at http://www.sbac.edu/~werned/DATA/Brain%20research%20class/handwriting%20speed%20style%20legibility%20berninger.pdf )

    What about _reading_ cursive? This matters vitally — it takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

    Of course, there are people asserting that cursive “helps brain development.” In fact, the research on handwriting and brain development hasn’t found that these benefits are somehow limited to any one type of handwriting.
    True, in some recent instances, those who are strongly invested in conventional cursive have at times misquoted the research establishing the benefits of handwriting: generally claiming that the research specified cursive as the sole source of these benefits. when in fact the research has not found this. enjoy asserting that cursive “helps brain development.” Those assertions that the cursive style somehow makes you smarter are never accompanied by details, because the research on handwriting and brain development has shown that the benefits of handwriting vs. typing apply to handwriting in _any_ style, not just to one particular style.
    I will leave it to the misquoters — and their customers — to ponder possible motives. (What would we think if the owner of a Persian cat first found some research showing that cats catch more mice than dogs, then told other cat-owners that this meant Persians catch more mice than other breeds?)

    What about signatures? 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.

    There’s also this to consider: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (On this, I could quote legal sources — and lawyers — but that would take more room than a letter permits. So don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

    In short, there is neither common sense, nor fact, nor legal necessity, behind the idolatry of cursive. Remember that research about the fastest, most legible handwriters? Most people who write that way were never taught to do it. Like the rest of us, they’d probably been taught otherwise. They had to stumble on those useful habits themselves, by consciously or unconsciously discarding what didn’t work in the printing or cursive styles they’d been taught, and keeping the best components of what was left — which meant breaking some of the rules they had been taught. But why leave it to chance and breaking the rules? There are books and (in the texting age) software designed to teach those better habits from the get-go and save handwriting for the twenty-first century. (Which ones? A letter like this is not the place for product reviews — though I welcome reader inquiries.)

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    Director, the World Handwriting Contest
    Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

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