Should Cursive Writing Be Cut From School Curricula?
My daughter found a worksheet on learning to write in cursive and set to work teaching herself script. She was fascinated by all the pretty loops, but most likely, with districts cutting topics not covered in the Common Core Standards, my daughter will never need to use cursive in school.
Is cursive an antiquated, decorative relic of an era that favored style over substance, or is it an important cultural tradition that may have cognitive benefits for kids?
Cursive Is More Fluid, Quicker
Some experts argue that cursive is an easier, quicker form of handwriting to teach and should actually be taught before print. Heike Larson, vice president of outreach for LePort Schools, explains from a Montessori perspective that cursive "has a continuous flow [and] makes it easier to separate out words; in contrast to print, there is no risk of letter reversals (b/d, p/q) [...] Ultimately, children who learn to write in cursive have more fluent, faster, neater handwriting then those taught to print - a key assess when taking notes, writing essays or completing tests later on in elementary school!"
In the classroom, Chelsey Slagter Marashian also notices fourth-grade students who did not know cursive wrote more slowly than those who did: "They often lost what they were trying to say by the time it's written, if that makes sense." On the other hand, her husband, also a teacher, feels that students will be typing in the future and that cursive instruction takes away instructional time from other subjects.
Technology Cannot Replace Cursive
Sheila Kurtz-Collier, a master graphologist and president of Graphology Consulting, does not believe, however, that new technology should replace this skill. "We don't stop teaching music because so much is already available on an iPod," she explains. She also compared script to mathematics: "Algebra is an exercise in properly stating and actually solving problems, whether the formulae and equations are used later or not."
Cursive Develops Fine Motor Skills
While some describe script as a form of enrichment, Christie Kiley, an occupational therapist who works with students, believes learning cursive is especially important for students who struggle with the mechanics of printing. She argues that "cursive is often actually easier for them [...] because the motor plan for cursive is easier – the letters all flow together rather than having to stop after every letter, which improves spacing within and between words. This ultimately increases the legibility of their handwriting. Additionally, once they get the hang of cursive, these students' writing speed and fluency often increases, which allows them to complete assignments more quickly and focus more on the content of what they're writing instead of focusing so much on the mechanics of writing."
Some students, however, really struggle with writing a script style that has all but died out. Hillary from My Scraps recounts how, along with teachers and counselors, she decided to exclude her eldest child from cursive instruction: "At the time, he was struggling with fine motor skills and it was a source of immense frustration for us all. So far it's been been fine (he's going into 7th grade) except he has no 'signature.'"
Cursive Is a Creative Form of Individual Expression
Although most educational experts bemoan the loss of handwriting, citing studies that show that writing notes by hand improves visual, motor and memory skills, there has been less evidence of the cognitive benefits of cursive.
Instead, many advocates of cursive point to its expressive value. Annette Poizner, a Columbia University-trained psychotherapist in private practice and author of "Clinical Graphology: An Interpretive Manual for Mental Health Practitioners," explains, "In days gone by, handwriting was a form of expressive movement that every child would master. Each person's handwriting is cultivated as a unique expression of self, idiosyncratic to themselves. And herein lie benefits that we associate with self-expression."
Cursive Is a Cultural Tradition
Another common point in defense of cursive is that many important historical documents, like the Declaration of Independence, are written in script. What do students lose when they cannot study primary source documents in their original format?
Julie Meyers Pron, a parent and a teacher, notes that the need to read cursive is also a modern issue: "The fact that my son wasn't taught to write (or, therefore, read) cursive is frustrating for him and me. There are many times he's been unclear on reading other people's hand-written notes, as he has not learned to quickly identify the letters. Adults often scrawl quick notes in cursive, and expect children to be able to read them—this even happens in school!"
Janie Carnal, executive director for educational services for Spalding Education International, explains that many children perceive cursive as a special activity that connects them to the adult world: “It’s a very positive experience for most children, and they feel so ‘grown up.’ I don't know how you'd teach script reading if they don't know how to actually form those letters themselves."
Does your child's school still teach cursive? Do you think children should learn to write in cursive or just focus on print and typing skills?