Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's Write Off Cursive

As the Indiana General Assembly hits "Hump Day" on its first week in the session, the Indy Star reports that Senator Jean Leising and her cosponsor Mike Delph are filing a bill to bring the instruction of cursive writing back to Indiana schools, but it's unlikely to go anywhere.

To be frank, it shouldn't.  I've written on this subject here before on the blog, and my mind hasn't changed.  It's much more important to give the 21st century student keyboarding skills at a young age than forcing them to practice the proper curly "q" on the letter D.

According to the Star, 46 states have adopted the common core curriculum which doesn't force schools to drop cursive instruction but allows schools to substitute other instruction instead of cursive.  Leising is concerned that students won't be able to read cursive if they don't learn it.  It's a valid point, but I can't honestly remember the last time I saw a student write in cursive in my class.  I think the ship has sailed on this one.  If you write in cursive, you're officially "old school" like me.

It's another attempt for the state to mandate something a local school district can decide for itself.  I honestly don't think this rises to the level of something that needs to happen in our schools.


varangianguard said...

You must not be a proponent of essay exams then?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ship has indeed sailed.

KateGladstone said...

Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter?
Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters 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. (Citations appear below.)

Often, cursive programs and teachers strongly discourage such practices. Students learning cursive are taught to join all letters, and to use different shapes for cursive versus printed letters. (These requirements do not align with the research findings above.)

When following the rules doesn't work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.)

Reading cursive still matters — this 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.

(In other words, we could simply teach kids to _read_ old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to _write_ that way too ... not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing _well_.)

Remember, too: 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. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)


/1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub.
1998: on-line at


/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer.
1998: on-line at

(NOTE: there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way.
Shouldn't there be more of them?)

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest