OPINION: Cursive should always be taught in the classroom

From signatures to just having basic calligraphy skills, comprehensive cursive writing is still an important thing to teach children. 

 

Though it’s a common myth that schools no longer teach cursive, the truth is that it just doesn’t have to be included in the curriculum in many schools around the country. 

 

In Illinois, cursive writing is mandatory, but this only became the case in 2018 when it was passed into law. This law is the case in 20 other states in the U.S., but many other states give the option to schools on whether they will teach it.

 

While cursive may seem less important to some due to the increasing prominence of technology, it still has importance in our lives. From writing signatures to learning to better understand old historical documents or letters you get from your relatives, cursive has many uses.

 

Typing and computer skills have their place, but for me, cursive is not only important, but it can also be fun, leading to more extensive calligraphy. While cursive is my primary method of calligraphy, learning it has helped me learn different ways of writing such as old English calligraphy faster than I would have if I had not learned cursive.

 

A personal example for me is being able to write birthday or holiday cards with much nicer looking handwriting than if I just wrote it normally. Taking the time and effort to write up a letter is something that I believe brings it more meaning.

 

There are various reasons why people say cursive writing isn’t important. One of these is that it takes up valuable time children could be learning something else, yet most students would start learning cursive around seven or eight years old, while they still have room to learn while they are learning the fundamentals of other subjects.

 

Cursive takes some time to learn, but could also be taught in tandem with core English rather than as its own separate subject. Even if it was just 10 to 15 minutes at the end of a class, students taking time to learn how to write cursive will enrich their learning experience and lead to being more skilled at writing in the future.

 

Some of the other issues people bring up is that it won’t be relevant later in life, and that’s a good argument. Writing in full cursive might not be needed later in your life, but learning it at some point will help you efficiently sign your name or pick it up later on in life, so it definitely wouldn’t hurt to learn it.

 

Cursive can also be difficult to learn, especially if you’re not a strong writer, and I certainly wasn’t when I was younger, but learning cursive can help with enough practice.

 

According to one article, learning cursive even has the capability to help with dyslexia due to involving more complex brain processes that help students decode the different words.

 

There are pros and cons to learning cursive, but to me, the pros outweigh the cons. Teaching cursive to students is well worth the time and effort.

(1) comment

Kate Gladstone

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.)

More recently, the research has also documented that, on the average, cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia. 

This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive poses even more difficulties than print-writing.

        (Contrary to myth, reversals in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”) 

         Interestingly enough, the first-ever published research study on dyslexia — back in 1896 — was a case history of a cursive writer in a cursive-only handwriting curriculum. Writing in cursive, he misspelled his first name (“Percy”) as “Precy”: a classic dyslexic reversal, in cursive, by a writer trained in cursive-only handwriting from Day One of school. This information is annoying to the frequent proponents of the belief that “cursive cures/prevents dyslexia,” so there is no reason to spare them such annoyance, because there is every reason to confront them with the facts that they cannot explain away.

 



— According to comparative studies of handwriting speed and legibility in different forms of writing, the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print.

We don’t require our children to learn to make their own pencils (or build their own printing presses) before we teach them how to read and write. Why require them to write cursive before we teach them how to read it? Why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.



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

Believe it or not, some of the adults who themselves write in an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me that they are teachers who still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or who still teach their students that all adults habitually and normally write in cursive and always will. (Given the facts on our handwriting today, this is a little like teaching kids that our current president is Richard Nixon.)

What, I wonder, are the educational and psychological effects of teaching, or trying to teach, something that the students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?

Cursive’s cheerleaders (with whom I’ve had some stormy debates) sometimes allege that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote that form of handwriting. The cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, that it instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or that it confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of the human race. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident as soon as others examined the claimed support:

/1/ either the claim provides no source,

or

/2/ if a source is cited, and anyone checks it out, the source turns out to have been misquoted or incorrectly paraphrased by the person citing it, 



or

/3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

By now, you’re probably wondering: “What about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive?” Brace yourself: in 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, the 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 at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

Kate Gladstone

DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest

CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

AUTHOR, Read Cursive Fast

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