Learning Cursive

Educators have been debating lately whether kids should still be taught cursive in school. Some districts have been removing it from their required curriculum, allowing individual schools to decide for themselves. What do we think?

To me, this much seems clear: it’s over for cursive. I was taught cursive in school, but I never use it and neither, in my experience, do almost any of my peers. Meanwhile, I’ve graded hundreds of hand-written undergraduate exams, and never to my recollection receiv…

  1. The King Prawn

    Judging by the way my kids write, they’re not teaching cursive or block handwriting in schools already. Both can type fairly well though.

  2. twvolck

    Well, one drawback would be that if I write a letter in handwriting, which I occasionally do,  cursive non-readers couldn’t read it.  Granted, there are people whose writing you can’t read even if you know cursive, but not learning cursive makes it worse.

    Still, in the 1920s, the Turkish government substituted Latin letters for Arabic letters in the writing of the language and taught only the new system, eventually making most Turks illiterate in material written before the change.  Turkey didn’t disappear; people adjusted.

  3. Matt Bartle

    You never sign your name?

  4. Amy Schley
    Matthew Bartle: You never sign your name? · 8 minutes ago

    If you’re like me and the vast majority of my customers, the only way anyone could read your signature is if they already knew your name.

    That being said, when I’m actually trying to communicate in cursive, I get compliments on how pretty my handwriting looks.  This would be because I practice my cursive when I’m doodling.

  5. Blue State Curmudgeon

    What’s the big deal about not learning cursive ?  They just learn those words on the street anyway….Sorry that’s an old joke.

  6. Western Chauvinist

    There’s been a resurgence of cursive teaching due to the charter school movement. I say this from experience, having two girls in charter schools in 5th and 9th grades, where cursive was taught from kindergarten on.

    There’s some (as far as I know unproven) theory that cursive handwriting is associated with better academic performance. I think it’s much more likely that schools which teach traditional handwriting also have traditional curricula and traditional methods of teaching classical content and get better results for that reason. They focus on literacy, the western canon, and proven methods of transmission. 

    Both my girls have struggled with handwriting and I reassure them that as soon as they’re allowed to use a computer, it won’t matter anymore. That’s certainly true for my freshman.

    Also I may brag about her reading Herodotus at her charter school, but I’ve never bragged about her writing in cursive! 

    Keep the classics. Drop the cursive.

  7. The King Prawn

    Is there a learning window for handwriting? Mine has never been great, and given my druthers it would be much better. Does one become too old to relearn proper penmanship?

  8. Amy Schley
    The King Prawn: Is there a learning window for handwriting? Mine has never been great, and given my druthers it would be much better. Does one become too old to relearn proper penmanship? · 16 minutes ago

    If you have the fine motor control, learning it is just a matter of practice.  If you’re one of the people who rests the pen on the ring finger instead of the middle finger, it’ll take longer because you’ll need to relearn how to hold the pen. (My dad had to drill that bad habit out of me when we homeschooled for a couple years.)

    Actually, my one gripe with teaching elementary schoolkids cursive is that some kids just have slower development of their motor skills and are simply not able to control the pen well enough to make cursive look good.  Of course, that being said, I have no patience with kids who were never taught to legibly write — cursive or printing.

  9. Brian Clendinen

     

    I have horrible handwriting but my cursive is way more legible. Something about drawing strait lines makes my print look bad but I don’t have the same issue with being fairly neat writting flowing curves. The problem I had in college was most teachers would not allow me to write in cursive.  I did when I was allowed since I am a slow writer it helped me spend more time thinking about what to write verse putting it on paper.

    The main problem is I think to many people have inlegible cursive. I would actually prefer to go to cursive if the average person could actually write it.

  10. Brian Clendinen
    Amy Schley

    If you have the fine motor control, learning it is just a matter of practice.  If you’re one of the people who rests the pen on the ring finger instead of the middle finger, it’ll take longer because you’ll need to relearn how to hold the pen. (My dad had to drill that bad habit out of me when we homeschooled for a couple years.)

    Actually, my one gripe with teaching elementary schoolkids cursive is that some kids just have slower development of their motor skills and are simply not able to control the pen well enough to make cursive look good.  Of course, that being said, I have no patience with kids who were never taught to legibly write — cursive or printing. · 5 minutes ago

    The question is not wether we were taught. It is as you said fine moter skills in the hands which I have none. Trust me I had handwriting thru 8th grade, it really did not help.  I still can’t cut a strait line without following a strait edge for the life of me, in writting it is even worse.

  11. Percival

    It’s not rocket science for crying out loud.  Penmanship was half of one year in 5th grade.  Besides, it was Miss E’s class, and Miss E was hawt.

    (I hadn’t sussed out all the parameters of hawt at that age, but I recently saw an old class picture, and the judgement stands.)

  12. Gary The Ex-Donk

    Cursive?  Why not just spend the entire year of kindergarten focusing on the lost art of cave painting?

  13. Amy Schley
    Brian Clendinen

    Amy Schley

     

    The question is not wether we were taught. It is as you said fine moter skills in the hands which I have none. Trust me I had handwriting thru 8th grade, it really did not help.  I still can’t cut a strait line without following a strait edge for the life of me, in writting it is even worse. · 24 minutes ago

    Here’s a “sink or swim” approach to developing that fine motor control: start eating nothing but stir fries using chop sticks.  Within a week or so you’ll have the ability to control the sticks (the bottom of which you hold like a writing instrument) or you’ll have lost a lot of weight. Win-win! :D

  14. Rachel Lu
    C
    Western Chauvinist: 

    There’s some (as far as I know unproven) theory that cursive handwriting is associated with better academic performance. I think it’s much more likely that schools which teach traditional handwriting also have traditional curricula and traditional methods of teaching classical content and get better results forthatreason. They focus on literacy, the western canon, and proven methods of transmission. 

    That seems extremely likely to me, WC. And honestly, while the opportunity cost of learning it isn’t that big, I did find that drilling us in cursive became something of a project for my third-through-fifth grade teachers (we weren’t allowed to turn in assignments in print, and were graded every term on our cursive), and it just doesn’t seem worth it. Cursive doesn’t matter anymore. Focus on filling in those massive gaps in their historical knowledge, their general literacy, their grammar, their geographical awareness, and so forth. 

  15. Zafar

    It’s useful, because it’s faster when you’re taking notes at a lecture in college, or in a meeting in later life.  I can’t imagine not having that skill – and a part of me (wrong! bad!EVIL!!!) can’t helping thinking ‘uneducated baby!’ when I see people struggling to take notes non-cursive script. So sue me.

  16. Rachel Lu
    C

    Zafar, I’ve read studies showing that it isn’t any faster, on average. My mother and I wrangled over this one quite a few times in my adolescence, so I was always on the lookout for such evidence to bolster my case. 

    Of course, typing is quite a lot faster than any form of handwriting, and more legible. I’m a quick typist (my husband, a committed techie, was annoyed to discover that I was faster than him) and also quick at writing by hand. I still have an attachment to handwritten (personal) notes, and I still like to outline papers and major writing projects by hand, but I’m confident I haven’t lost any time by doing so in print.

    I won’t begrudge you your handwriting snobbishness, so long as you understand that it makes you a bit of a dinosaur.

  17. Aaron Miller

    Cursive is worthless. It doesn’t improve legibility. It isn’t faster. It’s just fancy and so the fancy social classes prefer it.

    I don’t even sign my name in cursive anymore.

    Women might have some use for it when they handwrite so many birthday and Christmas cards. The purpose of cursive is to make handwriting artful and not merely functional. Clarity should be the priority when filling out documents.

  18. DrewInWisconsin

    Well, I’m not in a fancy social class, but my children are learning cursive handwriting (we homeschool) and they think writing in cursive is pretty big stuff!

  19. The King Prawn

    Funniest handwriting story ever…

    During training one day, the guy giving the training finished writing something on the white board then turned and asked if anyone had questions. One lone individual raised his hand and asked, “Scott, have you ever considered the possibility that you’re not actually left handed?” Thus ended any serious training for the day.

  20. Brian Clendinen
    Amy Schley

    Brian Clendinen

    Amy Schley

     

    The question is not wether we were taught. It is as you said fine moter skills in the hands which I have none. Trust me I had handwriting thru 8th grade, it really did not help.  I still can’t cut a strait line without following a strait edge for the life of me, in writting it is even worse. · 24 minutes ago

    Here’s a “sink or swim” approach to developing that fine motor control: start eating nothing but stir fries using chop sticks.  Within a week or so you’ll have the ability to control the sticks (the bottom of which you hold like a writing instrument) or you’ll have lost a lot of weight. Win-win! :D · 1 hour ago

    I am quite proficient with Chop-Sticks and use them at least once a week for a meal. It is precise finite movements that require hand eye coordination I have issues with. I could never be a surgeon. 

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