On Cursive: To Be or Not To Be

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This past fall, our local-weekly newspaper posed this question: Should school continue to teach cursive writing? Why or why not? Fortunately, they published many responses, to which I found a certain amount of amusement. Here you go, but the comments in italics are my responses.

Yes! Because it is necessary! (… and examples for necessary are?)

The teaching of cursive handwriting and reading has been in school since Abraham Lincoln wrote on a coal shovel in a one-room log cabin school. It not only teaches young students how to write, but how to read handwriting. (Yes … and using slide rules and an abacus have a chance of returning to schools. At least we don’t have to bring back the Algebra problem of determining what time do you have to be at the train station to pick up two friends arriving on different trains that left at different times and traveled at different speeds over different distances … oops …  that problem probably still exists!)

They should continue to teach it for the sole fact that someone will have to interpret old documents in the future. (Alright, interpreting hieroglyphics and ancient Hebrew still have a place, thus should be required for high school graduation.)

Yes because cursive writing is beneficial to learning and integrating communication between the two hemisphere. (Thank you Mr. Learning Theory & Cognitive Learning Expert because we now know that printing, typing, or keyboarding notes does not influence learning because of a lack of communication between cerebral hemispheres.)

Bare minimum, teach them how to sign their name for forms requiring signatures. My sixth-grader is clueless on that. (Although you are open to the idea, are you saying that printing is not acceptable signature on a formal document?)

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Time spent on teaching cursive could be used to educate children on other matters, such as grammar. (Say that it ain’t so!)

They (the students) will need to know it someday, and they will be smarter for it. (I don’t know when, but when it comes, the light bulb will serve as a reminder to thank schools for it.)

No, dumb them down some more. Then we will have total government and corporate control. (Thank you Sean Hannity enthusiast, and please, never attend a public forum on education …. now turn on the radio because it’s time Rush Limbaugh.)

Cursive is not yet obsolete, so we should keep teaching it. Perhaps we could eliminate Roman numerals instead. (How then will future generations understand the Super Bowl?)

A personal finance class should be mandatory for all high schoolers to graduate. (Thank you for your direct and insightful response to the question.)

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121 thoughts on “On Cursive: To Be or Not To Be

  1. Oh gosh, I don’t know– “signature” is usually cursive;most forms have a place for signature and also “print name here” for clarification. But if we’re voting for either grammar education OR cursive writing–PLEASE could we upgrade grammar and spelling. I think if I hear “she had went”, or “he come down the street” one more time, I’ll go crazy. That, and “loose” for “lose”–good grief already.

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  2. Cursive writing further declines with every generation and now, in the 21st century, it seems to be in freefall, Frank. I suppose it’s heading in the same direction as cave painting. The next time that you’re in New York City, you might want to visit the Morgan Library. They have on display letters hand written by major historical figures, like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Their penmanship was extraordinary.

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    • Lame,
      The Morgan Library exhibit sounds very interesting. Just look at their website … WOW! … and some complete with doodles. I forgot cave painting … it (along with doodles) needs to be incorporated into the new education standards!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That algebraic problem with the trains can be solved by looking up train arrival times online.
    As for cursive, I’m very much for it, even if I can barely read handwriting, including my own – because you can’t expect to always have a phone or a laptop handy.

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  4. I have one child who was taught cursive and one that wasn’t. The younger one was frustrated that she hard a time reading letters her grandmother would send her. I think she has adapted now that she’s 17. But it does cause a divide in this in between generation. She feels dumb that she doesn’t have a signature like everyone else.

    It’s weird that they don’t teach them. It doesn’t take very long. A few minutes a day? Hand outs? It’s odd.

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  5. I have lovely handwriting thanks to Miss Drozkiak (my 3rd and 4th grade teacher); my sons *had* lovely handwriting when they were taught it. Both have dumped it and print! My youngest has no signature and looks at me like I’m stupid when I tell him he looks like an idiot for not having a signature. Clash of the generations, I guess! I gave up on that one and still write them notes in cursive (on purpose, I’m a bitch like that) which they amazingly understand) Funny thing is, even if they were taught cursive, they were not taught the capital letters! The beginning of the dumbing down mentioned above by one of your readers….

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  6. Yes, because it is important for us to retain some forms of communication that do not rely upon sitting behind a computer screen. It is a valuable learning and concentration tool. It is a valuable ‘human’ interaction tool, including sending ‘thank you’ notes, hand written letters and other forms of ‘written’ communications to those we love.

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  7. They just stopped cursive writing in the Florida curriculum. I was soooo disappointed that they didn’t put it to a popular vote first. Writing should flow, and as you said, it stimulates both sides of the brain. I guess I’ll be teaching my grandchildren at home.

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  8. Yes, computers fail, and there may be a day when they completely fail. At the very least, kids should be taught to print, and spell correctly. From a personal perspective I enjoy writing letters. Cursive writing is beautiful, an art to some.

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  9. Ah…aFA…you on a feisty roll today and beating that drum so loud I can hear it all the way to here! My morning cuppa now held high in SALUDE’ position. Even with sloshes of hot stuff raining on the kitchen floor, head, hands and now creamed coffee soaking my pee-jays….will not deter me from….grinning so hard I think my face will break.
    There! It just did….

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  10. I recall being so excited about learning cursive that I taught myself how to write it the summer before it was taught in school. It made me feel grown up. And if students need some additional motivation… it’s much harder to read over someone’s shoulder if they’re writing in cursive! All my preadolescent notes about boys and secretive things were ALWAYS written cursive.

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  11. Back in the day, our first grade teacher would make us come to school an hour early and stay and hour late curving our a’s, e’s, and s’s, until our little fingers were raw to the bone – AND WE LIKED IT! (Dana Carvey – SNL)

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  12. Why learn cursive? Why learn French? Why learn anything? I say dump the teaching of cursive and see what happens.
    Some things in life are analog, and some digital. There are those who prefer the flow of things, and those who prefer disconnected bits and beeps. I myself am partial to a clock with a face.
    I can write several alphabet styles (printer’s fonts) by hand, including Roman, italic gothic and Irish uncial. Did I mention that I ‘ve managed my own calligraphy studio and made good money at it? As with all craft of the human hand compared to that of a machine….there will always be those who value the individual touch of a human more, and who can tell the difference. At least I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cynthia,
      Oh my … you surprised me with your approach. Love your analog/digital analogy. In terms of dumping cursive, I’m getting the impression that some states are doing so (which I didn’t know) … but maybe schools should be able to write in different fonts instead!

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  13. I think it’s much quicker to write in cursive than the alternative, and everyone has a different style, which friends and family recognise when they receive an envelope through the post. I think it would be a great loss if they ever do away with teaching cursive writing. In fact it’s a ridiculous idea and a total cop out.

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  14. I’m in the clinic waiting for my mother’s appointment, so I thought I’d buzz by on my phone. Well, that makes it sound like I’m using my phone for transportation, but you know what I mean!

    I like kids learning cursive just because it’s faster than printing, and I think they’d find it helpful. But I think what would be even better is if they taught kids good keyboarding skills early on in elementary school. What we used to know as typing class. This is what they really need in this technology era. The two-finger method doesn’t cut it.

    Loved reading your commentary to the various comments!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well, Frank you have finally exposed yourself …er mabe a better term would be, come out…um. Let’s start again. Well, Frank I can see you definitely favor folks who have a valid argument for one side or another so here goes. I think we should require cursive since I hold stock in several companies who benefit from the use of pens, the correction of digital abnormalities due to excessive writing, (such abnormalities are not found in printing) and the manufacture of various writing instruments. Printing does not support the purchase of an outrageously expensive pen which leaks into the pocket of an equally expensive shirt. Only the promise of writing with a flourish supports this behavior. Thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marina,
      Cursive to the masses or not, I have no don’t that the calligraphy will survive …. after all, it’s art. Love watching the artist in the video used different pressures, speeds, and angles!

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  16. We have been wondering if Sophia will be taught cursive next year in school, and it’s been our conversation as to how we feel about it. I see little reason beyond “that’s the way it’s always been” and that surely isn’t good enough. There are times I find I have difficulty writing a completely sentence in cursive. It feels odd and foreign after hours and hours on a keyboard. I have a hard time imagining young people ever using cursive! I laughed out loud at your response to the “Sean Hannity enthusiast!” Very clever, Frank!

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    • Debra,
      Oh no … a person from the same generation as me going against the forces of “what is good enough for me should continue.” … after all, schools embrace that line. So how will Sophia write that letter to you with a personal touch? How will she handle the form that has Signature and Print Name in separate fields? How will she ever learn without her two brain hemispheres communicating from writing cursive notes?

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  17. I think we should scrap the cursive and teach kids these days how to send a text with no numbers standing in for letters and all vowels present and accounted for.

    Screw ancient hieroglyphics, we have modern day ones.

    Although I am guilty of overusing LOL, ROTFL, and LMFAO. Oh, and YOLO but only to piss off my roomie 😛
    Great post 🙂 had me LOLing all the way through 😛

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  18. People are writing less these days and typing more – even in lectures as typing is fater than writing. Keep teaching cursive? I don’t think it is necessary. What is necessary, though, is that children are still taught how to write letters and practise their penmanship.

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  19. How funny! Been mulling over a post about this recently, but no reason when yours is so perfect.
    Funny thing, some private schools and public ones are starting up cursive writing again for different reasons other than legibility. Research is showing that all those cursive writing exercises have benefits with improving not only hand eye coordination, fine motor control, but also has a soothing aspect from the flowing lines and repetition. In addition breathing moderates and become orderly/rhythmic and focus improves for the content lesson that immediately follows. Advocates are pointing to improved attitudes as goals are set (form of letter practiced), effort put forth in direction of a goal (letter form), and a positive result after a period of practice and “work/effort” raises self esteem.
    We may find out in education that once again the baby was thrown out with the bathwater as with music and art sessions.
    I struggled with cursive being 2 -21/2 years younger than others in the class and the fine motor control simply wasn’t there. I did enjoy making fancy elaborate embellishments in secondary school…and slanted it all backwards for a while. Cursive does give a chance for a kid to show creativity and individuality in a structured system…but teachers could easily determine who was writing the notes….
    What is the lack of cursive is eventually shown why all the test scores are down? Round up those music teachers – every kid needs an excuse to sing loudly and get more oxygen in their system!
    great post, Frank – always fun here

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    • Hear! Hear! PMoH – I totally agree with you.. the so-called “softer” subjects should indeed be brought back. They help us (well, them, as WE DID get them) be more well-rounded people!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We are just beginning to understand how the brain functions, learns, and makes connections. New understanding is happening eery day to explain why “old” things worked in more ways than we knew and had benefits we never expected….
        Not old things are bad…look at all the bloggers (insert giggles!)

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        • Yep… I’m one of the old ones… did actually take “typewriting” and, thanks to that, can type over 60 words per minute… no two-finger-tango happening here!

          So interested in raising self-esteem, that there are no losers/winners; everyone gets a medal and mediocrity rules.

          Ah shit… sorry… I’ve gone and let myself ramble…

          Liked by 1 person

        • Isn’t it interesting that adults, who can’t sit still in meetings and focus/pay attention for any length of time think the best way to educate kids is to stick them in seats in windowless rooms for endless hours….
          (Another unpredicted research discover was how much preschoolers – (3-4 yrs) really enjoyed working on old typewriters. They loved the noise, seeing the striking key move as they hit/punched a letter, and then rolling out the paper and seeing the letter. Very physical response compared to a computer or tablet. Very much in line with creating print awareness, making connection between letter sound and shape – and then they were copying words from labels under pictures of animals and items…and running around showing what they “wrote”…of course they also wrote stories (which were translated into adult English orally so they could take them home for parents – after we scanned a copy)
          As well as immediate recognition of cause and effect. (Hit the typewriter key and it produced a letter you can hold and carry around)
          Child’s play is serious work.
          ….rambling is just a form of brainstorming and formulating solutions…

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        • A principal told me that a teacher’s behavior in a meeting is insight into their classroom. Nonetheless, when it comes to change, research is out the window because it becomes protecting the sacred cows.

          Even if the department or can break away with something research based, the public will stand in the way, thus everything returns to normal.

          Meanwhile … your typewriter ramblings are interesting.

          Liked by 1 person

        • What concerns me and few outside the research think tanks realize is that many of the PIs and research leads do not have children, and have never set foot in a classroom for any length of time. (and carefully chosen cohorts do not count not do lab schools. A researcher really needs 4-5 years of 5 day a seek all day teaching in a “regular classroom like a regular teacher faces” before making recommendations for national standards and methods. Many just want to “do something different” in education…not necessarily what’s right for kids. Disturbed kids are lab rats for unfounded ideas….just a view from the inside…one reason I keep a low profile.
          Oddly a veteran successful principal once told me a good teacher rarely sits down in the classroom – and those have very few behavior problems with students…and from experience, I tend to agree.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Great points about research, thus one of the concerns I would have about the research you mentioned regarding cursive. In other words, has there been enough time to see an effect. Great point about teachers moving around …. an easy thing for teachers with an active classroom.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I have a big, ancient Underwood office typewriter, as an “antique” in my house,….and when a small boy was visiting recently he asked if he could play with it. I showed him how to use it, and he said “wow!.. a keyboard and printer all in one!”

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    • Hey Mouse,
      Wait a minute … wait one minute for this reason … schools are not allowed to make research-based decisions regardless if it flies in the face of the public and pragmatism! … so your rationale is unfair. … On the other hand, I know they are interested in raising self esteem. I always said reward students for doing bad to make sure they felt good about doing bad.

      Meanwhile, the effort in this post goes to the people who made the comments in the local paper .. after all, they simply gave me the matter with which to work. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Such an interesting post dear Frank!…
    As far as I am concerned it might have been useful years ago…
    Going further, nowadays with the technological achievements I am not sure about the lengths of cursive writing beyond the classroom. Aquileana 😀

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    • Aquileana,
      That’s the dilemma …. thinking it’s important versus its limited use. An interesting counterpoint would be aspect of research, then again, I question of that research has enough data points over time for validity.

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  21. Great discussion. I like best the comments from Philo and Cynthia.

    In dismissing cursive I feel we are dismissing an important element of art, as opposed to functionality. The capacity for abstract thought is mostly what sets humans ahead of other animals and the quality of abstract thought on paper is improved if the process is disciplined. Cursive requires such discipline, including an outline (at least mentally) and selection of appropriate syntax and words. Thus, a cursive missive becomes an artful tool of its author, with the added bonus of displaying the obvious pre-planning and though required. Tweets, on the other hand, are seldom worth saving.

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    • Jim,
      I appreciate your point about cursive as an art form, which is a thought I hadn’t considered. Regarding the discipline and thoughts that goes along with cursive, would “serious” construction on a keyboard involve similar decision making?

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      • Regarding the discipline and thoughts that goes along with cursive, would “serious” construction on a keyboard involve similar decision making?

        It’s a pertinent question, Frank. Clearly, it depends on the self-discipline of the writer. My point is that cursive encourages planning, adding this message by implication: “Look at the effort I expended in constructing this message, just for you. You are important to me.” The effort entails an onus even before the first ink hits the page. Typing on the other hand is much easier to edit on the fly, or not at all, and hence we see the less disciplined often fail to correct both spelling and syntax. Or so it seems to me.

        When I write a formal note, I first do a draft outline, but when I type a letter I hardly ever do.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Interesting Frank – both context and responses your post generated. I love cursive writing for it’s elegance and what it says about the writer. To me there is nothing like getting a handwritten note, it takes time, thought and care. Why print to address an envelop when you can write it instead. Technology has removed the art out of a lot of things, writing is one of them – sadly missed.

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    • Mary,
      Glad you enjoyed this one. Seeing the comments in the local paper served as the stimulus for this post … especially when others write their opinions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

      Like

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