Cursive Handwriting: Is it Still Necessary to Teach?

    November 15, 2013
    Ann Casano
    Comments are off for this post.

Think about it. When was the last time you wrote in cursive other than to pen your signature? With the universal use of computers, smartphones and plain old print writing – is cursive handwriting dead? And if it’s hardly used by the adults who learned it way back when, should we bother to continue to teach it in schools today? Or should we spend that time instead teaching students how to type on keyboards?

The cursive handwriting debate rages on. A group called the Common Core believes changes in the curriculum need to be made, more time and attention towards higher testing standards and keyboard skills should be mandated, in lieu of teaching cursive writing. Morgan Polikoff, who is an Assistant Professor of K-12 policy and leadership, at the University of Southern California contends, “If you just stop and think for a second about what are the sorts of skills that people are likely to be using in the future, it’s much more likely that keyboarding will help students succeed in careers and in school than it is that cursive will.”

However, the flip side deems learning cursive still a necessity. Idaho State Rep. Linden Batemen argues, “Modern research indicates that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they keyboard. We’re not thinking this through. It’s beyond belief to me that states have allowed cursive to slip from the standards.”

Now, seven states want to make sure that cursive stays in the curriculum: California, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah. Perhaps those states agree with Bateman’s argument that “The Constitution of the United States is written in cursive.” The Representative believes that if students do not learn cursive, they will have issues in the future interpreting historical documents.

People’s reactions on Twitter have been mixed:

Tell us what you think. Is teaching cursive still a necessary part of education?

Image Via Wikipedia Commons

  • T.K.

    This is a non-issue. If it is not broke, don’t waste money fixing it. Come on America. There are more important issues than this. Sixth graders in Japan are doing what 12th graders are doing in America. Our kids don’t know math or the sciences. Yet, they can text.

    No child left behind insured that all children were left behind.

  • http://yahoo.com Elaine Sealy

    I think our country is going from bad to worse….not only our children not learning as they should be, now……you want to stop teaching cursive handwriting. Just think as an adult, and when asked to sign their name…..they print it ..saying thats all we know how to do……

    Take a Stand America…..lets keep teaching back in the classroom……All life is not built on a computer…

  • Yep

    America really is rapidly declining. If you look at all the countries in the world, the US is the prime candidate for implosion. We are getting fat and stupid. God save this country.

    Really think about it. Name me one country where everyone is paranoid, where there is massive incarceration, where the government spies on every citizen daily, where the educational system is being dumbed down, where there is massive political unrest, where the borders are being closed, where cameras are going on every street corner, where drones are flying overhead, where they are now making the drones much smaller and cheaper so more can be put in the air and where the country is continually at war.

    We like to think we are the best and we are free. The reality is that we are not. We are in rapid decline and becoming less free everyday. We are also being dumbed down. This does not end well for us.

  • http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com Kate Gladstone

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources on request.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive,” of course.) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, adds brain cells, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    For instance:

    The much-ballyhooed difference in SAT scores between cursive writers and non-cursive writers is … brace yourself … 1/5 of a point on the essay exam. That’s all.

    (Yes, I checked with the College Board — see below for the source info they sent me — because not one of the many, many media that mention the “slightly higher” difference actually states _how_much_”slightly higher” the difference is. The College Board researchers who found the difference note, in their findings that this one isn’t statistically significant: in other words, it’s so small that it’s less than the difference you’d expect if the same person took the same test twice. In fact, it’s even smaller than the score differences between males and females taking the SAT.)

    So far — in this article and elsewhere — whenever a devotee of cursive has claimed the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim (of research support for cursive) provides no traceable source,


    /2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., an Indiana University research study comparing print-writing with keyboarding is usually misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”),


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

    What about signatures? In state and federal 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, then 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 all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

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

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

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

  • Uncle B

    Next year, 60 tb hard drives for home computers at consumer price levels avialable. Teaching interfacing methods for this advance, and perhaps revving a “short-hand” for rapid notes, and keyboarding shills including the shorthand, perhaps could advance humankind?

  • http://www.helpkidsread.net help kids to learn

    Handwriting matter a lot. i am working on my daughters writing style. any suggestion is welcomed.

  • Andy

    Obviously I’m a little late to this debate, but I cannot believe that we are even considering losing one of our most basic skill sets. The digital age, as remarkable as it is, is also destroying what’s left of our American heritage. Too much of anything is a bad thing. Why can’t we maintain a blend of new and old formats? I believe there is still room for cursive writing. I still use it today. In fact I just got done writing my holiday thank-you notes…in cursive. Oh wait, I bet we don’t do that anymore either. Keyboards and tablets and kindles are great tools, I won’t deny that. But paper and pen and good old fashioned books are not obsolete. I agree with those that believe our educational system is failing, that we as a nation are becoming “stupider”, but I can’t agree with taking away knowledge–common knowledge–that everyone should at least have the concept of if not the chance to decide for themselves as to whether or not it will be a medium of choice.

  • F*** CURSIVE

    Trust me, in Europe, “cursive” (we call it handwriting, because you use your f***ing hand) is the only form of penmanship taught in school.

  • KateGladstone

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter?

    Legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility.
    Further research shows that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia or dysgraphia.
    (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    The fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. Highest speed and legibility in handwriting belong to those who join some letters, not all: joining the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive still matters — but this is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Simply reading cursive can be taught in just 30-60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print. (There’s even an iPad app teaching how. The app — “Read Cursive” — is a free download: appstore.com/readcursive )

    Teaching material for more practical handwriting abounds.
    Some examples, often with student work: BFHhandwriting.com, handwritingsuccess.com, briem.net, HandwritingThatWorks.com, italic-handwriting.org, studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/curriculum.html )

    Educated adults are quitting cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher. 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 don’t use cursive, why exalt it?

    Cursive’s devotees sometimes claim that cursive justifies anything said or done to promote it. They state (in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it lets your brain work, that it creates proper grammar and spelling, that it teaches etiquette and patriotism and reasoning, or that it does anything else educationally imaginable. Some invoke research: citing studies that turn out to ne misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    That eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are made — under oath — in testimony to school districts, state legislatures, and other bodies voting on educational measures. Proposals for cursive are, without exception, introduced by legislators or others whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — though investigative reporting does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill. (Documentation on request: I’m glad to speak to anyone interested in bringing this serious issue before the public.)
    By now, you probably wonder: “What about signatures?” Brace yourself: in any nation, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over other kinds. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
     Questioned document examiners (specialists in identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) tell 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.

    Calling for cursive to support handwriting is like calling for top hats and crinolines to support the art of tailoring.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works