Friday, January 23, 2015

Cursive Writing—It's important! 10 reasons to teach and use it


Today is National Handwriting Day in the United States. It only recently came to my attention that cursive handwriting is no longer uniformly taught in the US...and I was shocked. I was even more shocked that so many Americans were accepting it.

I wanted to discover what was behind this disastrous decision and found the culprit—Common Core State Standards.

If you are not familiar with Common Core, I urge you to research it further. Who is behind it? Who stands to profit from it? The Washington Post has an interesting piece on their blog entitled The Coming Common Core Melt Down. It is a reprint of an article by Stan Karp that originally appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine. It is the best I have read about Common Core. In it he says under the section 'Fighting Back', that we should be '... exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping this false panacea for the problems our schools face.' And make no mistake, companies are profiting from it (could this be why 'keyboarding' is mentioned specifically and longhand is not?).

If you argue—as many internauts do—that cursive handwriting is no longer required (old school they're calling it) then why teach mathematics? After all, we have calculators. We continue to teach mathematics because it is knowledge; it is a skill set we need. The same applies to longhand. It is not a question of either/or. We need both keyboarding skills and cursive handwriting. I have computers and I type every day for work and leisure, but I write longhand every day, too. This so called digital age in which we live has only been in existence for the last thirty years—hardly an age in the scale of humanity, more like a blip. Are we going to throw away a skill set human beings have been perfecting for several millennium overnight? Why are we so quick to throw away an important part of our humanity? Monkeys can tap at a keyboard, but they cannot write in cursive.

By not teaching children this valuable skill we are depriving them of knowledge. We are condemning them to a future where they are incapable of signing their own name. Is that an education?

Cursive writing has real, valuable benefits. Here are ten reasons to keep teaching and using it:

1. Writing in longhand accesses a different part of our brain, employing the more perceptive right-brain's cognitive aspects. By learning cursive, children activate this different part of their brain and in so doing further develop fine motor skills.

2. Writing in cursive helps you generate ideas and retain information. Children who learn cursive score better on spelling, reading and future SAT tests.  Recent studies show students who take notes with laptops score worse on theoretical questions than students taking notes in longhand. The longhand students acquire and retain a greater understanding of their subject matter via longhand than do their laptop peers.
  
3. Research has shown that cursive writing may be a valuable teaching aid for children with dyslexia.

4. Most American establishments still require a signature. You need to be able to sign your name for a registered letter at the post office, have a bank account signature card, sign a passport, a petition, etc. The same goes for other westernized countries. 

5. Signatures are harder to forge than block letters. Like fingerprints, our writing is part of what makes us unique.

6. To be able to read your great-grandfather's WWI letters to your great-grandmother and other historic documents written in longhand (can you imagine—what if John Hancock had had no John Hancock?).

7. Write an aesthetically pleasing personalized card or letter. Cursive is accepted as more visually appealing than block print (of course doctors are the exception to this).

8. It's faster than block printing. If you need to write by hand—and no matter what anyone says we still do—longhand is a quicker way to get what you want on paper.

9. One day you might live outside the United States and find you're missing a valuable skill the citizens of other Latin script countries still teach. 

10. To prove that you are a well-educated, adult human being who can.

If you would like to take and use the badge I designed above, please feel free to do so.

Favorite links:

The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard - Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Note Taking - Psychological Science Journal
The Lowdown on Longhand: How writing by hand benefits the brain
The Joys and Benefits of Cursive Writing
Andrew Coyne: Losing longhand breaks link to the past
How Handwriting Trains the Brain
Why teach cursive handwriting? A response
How cursive can help students with dyslexia connect the dots
The Benefits of Cursive Go Beyond Writing

4 comments:

lisa808 said...

I so agree!

KateGladstone said...

Handwriting matters — does cursive matter? Research finds that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Research sources are available on request.)

The fastest, clearest writers avoid cursive, though they are not absolute print-writers either. Highest speed and legibility in handwriting belong to those who join some letters, NOT all: joining only the most easily joined letters, leaving the rest unjoined, with print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

Reading cursive matters, but this is much easier and quicker to master than writing cursive. Rreading cursive can be taught in 30 - 60 minutes to anyone who reads print. (There's even an iPad app teaching how — a free download: “Read Cursive” at appstore.com/readcursive .)

Why not teach children to READ cursive — along with other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?
Teaching material for a better method abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive that's loved by too many North American educators. Examples of a better handwriting, often with student work: http://www.BFHhandwriting.com, http://www.handwritingsuccess.com, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/curriculum.html

Educated adults quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference run by Zaner-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher. Only 37% wrote in cursive; 8% printed. The majority (55%) wrote with some elements like print-writing, others resembling cursive.
(To take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, not restricted to teachers — see http://www.poll.fm/4zac4 for the One-Question Handwriting Survey. As with the Zaner-Bloser survey, results so far show very few purely cursive handwriters, and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.)

When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

Cursive's cheerleaders suppose that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote cursive. They claim (often under oath, to school boards and legislatures) that cursive cures or prevents dyslexia, makes you intelligent, creates proper etiquette and patriotism, improves grammar and spelling, or grants numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of as. (The claims that it improves English are mostly in very bad English — beautifully penned.)
Some invoke research: citing studies that they misquote or misrepresent. often in testimony to school districts, legislatures, and other decision-makers. Bills for cursive are perennially introduced by legislators whose misrepresentations are then revealed: often with signs of undue influence on the legislators. (Documentation on request: I'm glad to be interviewed by anyone who will put this serious issue before the public.)

You wonder: “How 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 (specialists in identifying signatures, verifying documents, etc.) tell me the least forgeable signatures are the plainest — including print signatures.

ALL handwriting, not just cursive, is individual (and involves fine motor skills). That is how a first-grade teacher tells right off (from printing on unsigned work) which student wrote it.

Mandating cursive to support handwriting is like mandating top hats and crinolines to support the art of tailoring.


Kate Gladstone
DIRECTOR, World Handwriting Contest
CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
HandwritingThatWorks.com

S. Thomas said...

Ms. Gladstone, thank you for taking the time to comment. We must politely agree to disagree. You state comment sources; please note in addition to the selected sources within my post above and links at the end, many more exist.

As to the speed of cursive, you say that the faster writers are not cursive, but add they are "not absolute print-writers either" and that "Highest speed and legibility in handwriting belong to those who join some letters, not all." At least these writers know how to join "some", whereas most of today's children are not being taught to join ANY.

I am not referring to just speed—as in the forming of letters—but speed in gathering thoughts and expressing ourselves. Cursive handwriting allows one to more clearly express their thoughts, getting them out on paper faster than printing.

Obviously, I agree children should be taught to read cursive. No, I don't think that should be delegated to an iphone app.

As an American living abroad, I am well aware of different methods of handwriting. I have studied in the UK and am familiar with their "joined" handwriting. If you espouse the British form of handwriting be taught, I won't disagree with you. You argue that a "purely" cursive hand is not used by adults today, but at least they are writing longhand in some sense. They've chosen to change from the foundation they were taught (I think we all have). Most American schools are eliminating that choice.

I write in longhand every day. But I can't say that I have EVER as an adult used algebra, and yet we still teach it. If we quit imparting knowledge to students simply because they don't NEED it, where do we stop? Algebra? History? Literature? Do we really need those? Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a worthy goal.

Studies have proven that cursive handwriting may AID dyslexia students (I did not say cure). I did not say anything about increased intelligence either. What studies HAVE shown is that cursive is a tool to help children learn BETTER, that it enhances development of fine motor skills, helps to generate ideas and retain information. Argue their merit if you will, but studies have proven the benefits of cursive handwriting.

Nor have I attributed to cursive anywhere in my post increased etiquette or patriotism. I hope that people will try to be polite in whatever form they use to express themselves.

As for signatures...they are STILL required and as to forgery, I have read many sources that state the less complex the handwriting, the easier it is to forge. This seems so obvious to me, even without verifying it (although I have) I don't see how anyone could think otherwise. I never claimed to know the laws in each state and that was not the point I made. I'm sure most state signature laws date back to a time when illiteracy was common and people couldn't sign. My signature is a part of me and I am proud to be able to sign my own name.

I don't understand what you are advocating. If you are proposing a modified form of longhand be taught, such as the British system, with that I might agree. As it stands now, handwriting is not specifically mentioned under Common Core standards. CCSS simply require "legible manuscript writing" in kindergarten and grade one and nothing after that. And with that, I do NOT agree.

vickienipp said...

thank you so much for this post i agree whole heartily!!! i have three grandchildren who will learn cursive from me, i believe it is very important!

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