Curse of cursive handwriting

Prospect Magazine







Curse of cursive handwriting

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It’s absurd to teach children this way

Why do we teach children two different systems of handwriting? © Cybrarian77


There’s something deeply peculiar about the way we teach children to play the violin. It’s a very difficult skill for them to master—getting their fingers under control, holding the bow properly, learning how to move it over the strings without scratching and slipping. But just as they are finally getting there, are beginning to feel confident, to hit the right notes, to sound a bit like the musicians they hear, we break the news to them: we’ve taught them to play left-handed, but now it’s time to do it like grown-ups do, the other way around.

Alright, I’m fibbing. Of course we don’t teach violin that way. We wouldn’t do anything so absurd for something as important as learning an instrument, would we? No—but that’s how we teach children to write.

It’s best not to examine the analogy too deeply, but you see the point. The odd thing is that, when most parents watch their child’s hard-earned gains in forming letters like those printed in their storybooks crumble under the demand that they now relearn the art of writing “joined up” (“and don’t forget the joining tail!”), leaving their calligraphy a confused scrawl of extraneous cusps and wiggles desperately seeking a home, they don’t ask what on earth the school thinks it is doing. They smile, comforted that their child is starting to write like them.

As he or she probably will. The child may develop the same abominable scribble that gets letters misdirected and medical prescriptions perilously misread. In his impassioned plea for the art of good handwriting, Philip Hensher puts his finger on the issue (while apparently oblivious to it):

“You longed to do ‘joined-up writing,’ as we used to call the cursive hand when we were young… I looked forward to the ability to join one letter to another as a mark of huge sophistication. Adult handwriting was unreadable, true, but perhaps that was its point.”

The real point is, of course, that “sophistication.” When I questioned my friend, a primary school teacher, about the value of teaching cursive, she was horrified. “But otherwise they’d have baby writing!” she exclaimed. I pointed out that my handwriting is printed (the so-called “manuscript” form). “Oh no, yours is fine,” she—not the placatory sort—allowed. I didn’t ask whether all the books on my shelves were printed in “baby writing” too.

I did also once ask my daughter’s teachers what they thought they were doing by teaching her cursive. When they realised this was not a rhetorical question but a literal one, there was bemusement and panic. “It’s just what we do,” one said. “We always have.” Another ventured the answer I’d anticipated; that the children will be able to write faster, and then added that she thought she’d seen some research somewhere showing that some children find the flowing movements help to imprint the shape of whole words more clearly in their mind. This was evidently not a question they had faced before.

We tend to forget, unless we have small children, that learning to write isn’t easy. It would make sense, then, to keep it as simple as possible. If we are going to teach our children two different ways of writing in their early years, you’d think we’d have a very good reason for doing so. I suspect that most primary school teachers could not adduce one.

It’s not just about writing, but reading too. “As a reading specialist, it seems odd to me that early readers, just getting used to decoding manuscript, would be asked to learn another writing style,” says Randall Wallace, a specialist in reading and writing skills at Missouri State University.

There are, from time to time, proposals to stop teaching cursive, usually motivated by the conviction that handwriting is passé in the digital age. The outraged response is that handwriting is an art; there is an intrinsic value in beautifully formed script and to lose it would be a step towards barbarism.

Here, I’m with Hensher: we should value skill with a pen. Our handwriting is an expression of our personality and humanity—not in some pseudoscientific, graphological sense, but in the same way as our clothing, our voice, our conversation. Yet these arguments are usually about the good versus the indifferent in handwriting. It is implicitly assumed that the acme of good handwriting is beautiful cursive.

Now, I admire the elegant copperplate of the Victorians as much as anyone. But no one writes like that any more. How can we insist that to drop cursive will be to drop beauty and elegance, given that most people’s cursive handwriting is so abysmal? “It has always seemed ironic that, even after we sign a document, we have to print our signature underneath it for clarity,” says Wallace.

Surely, though, in something as fundamental to education as writing, there must be scientific evidence that will settle this matter? Let’s dispatch the most obvious red herring straight away: you will not write faster in cursive than in print. Once you need to write fast (which you don’t at primary school), you’ll join up anyhow if and when that helps. I know this to be so, because I missed the school years in which cursive was ground into my peers, and yet I never suffered from lack of speed. Research supports me on this.

Are there any other advantages, then? Champions of cursive will always unearth tenuous arguments from dusty corners of the literature: it  makes it easier to learn how to write words, b and d are not confused and children don’t write backwards letters. None of these claims counts for very much—on the merits of learning cursive versus manuscript, Steve Graham, a leading expert in writing development at Arizona State University, avers that, “I don’t think the research suggests an advantage for one over the other.”

A survey in the US in 1960 found that the decision to teach cursive in elementary schools was “based mainly on tradition and wide usage, not on research findings.” One school director said that public expectancy and teachers’ training were the main reasons, and that “we doubt that there is any significant advantage in cursive writing.” According to Wallace, nothing has changed: “The reasons to reject cursive handwriting as a formal part of the curriculum far outweigh the reasons to keep it.”

It’s not necessarily cursive per se that’s the problem, but the practice of teaching children two different systems, perhaps in the space of so many years, without good reason. Research seems to show that it may not much matter how children learn to write, so long as it is consistent.

Were there to be a choice between cursive and manuscript, one can’t help wondering why we would demand that five-year-olds master all those curlicues and tails, and why we would want to make them form letters so different from those in their reading books. But that’s a smaller matter than forcing them to struggle though one of their hardest early-learning tasks twice, with two different sets of rules, apparently because of nothing more than the arbitrary and tautological belief that only the kind of writing you had to (re)learn can be “grown-up” and “beautiful.” After all, what’s the point of conducting research on educational methods if in the end you’re going to say “But this is how we’ve always done it”?


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The great bad writer: Edgar Allen Poe was the most influential American author of the 19th century, says Kevin Jackson

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  1. February 21, 2013

    tyronen

    My son is in Year 2 and is struggling very hard with this. I’ve spent hours on it with him and my only conclusion is that he is just not ready for cursive. His fine motor skills aren’t there yet. I decided to let him do all his homework in manuscript.

    I asked his teacher why they teach cursive so young – in Canada, students don’t learn it until age 8. Her reply was that research showed children have better spelling if they use cursive. She did admit that after primary school handwriting simply isn’t important anymore.

    Which jives with my own observations. My own cursive writing is terrible and writing neatly was a constant struggle in primary school, though I excelled in everything else. Today as a working professional, no one ever sees my handwriting, and no one knows how bad it is. Everything is typed.

    • February 26, 2013

      henry

      The word you seek is GIBE. No jive.

      • October 12, 2013

        daugenn

        Art has nothing to see with writing, we are talking here about copying prints which are mechanics shapes absolutely not confortable to writte ….with so much cuts and spaces and no swing in hand and finger mouvement. like getting to obliques when getting faster witch help to read even faster ..
        Is it necessary to act like monkeys copying machines purpuses in graphics .

        Or do we go for organic joined letters and humain fluid gestures .It is also very good to have different type of signs to encode our messages… light differences in rounding curves that lets show temper or mood…Have you ever read à beautifull page in latin leters written by people chosen first for their exact and beautifull élegant callygraphic writtings .It looks like smooth drowing mouvements of hand à delicate spécific body works.

        Let machine write like machines and human like human and so we have two encoding shape systeme witch is another chance to exercice our eyes and brain and multiply synaptic connectors in our brains .Why simplify ! Do we have to get to basics and forget higher level of éducation …yes éducation is also à place where differences and efforts have to show personnal efforts … absolutely not happy to see the easy way being the new norme ….to get in the great médiocratic world movement ..dont we have enough of that intellectual misery that make our world every day worst .We already are thinking with yes/no computer program type, manichean thinking black and white, bad and good…. lets get event more simplistic been totally nuts and emotionnals

        Cursive handwriting is à 2000 years old legacy in europe and is already very simplified since no full et thin lines in curves are done because of hand writing instruments .I

        . As we say in french about thicker curves and thin vertical lines… its giving flesh to text and letters and this also shows temper and mood of writter .IT is a true signature itself and it takes many thousands of line practicing… to get ‘readable ‘
        Beautifull hand writings also shows a caracter . its the effort to go further than beeing readable … he gives reader something else . A little more of his flesh….

        • December 1, 2013

          Anonymous

          Yeah. I couldn’t agree more.

          Cursive is art.

          But we can’t all be Picassos, can we? If you want to be an Doctor and someone wants you to do a thesis on archaeology or abstract art or something else equally irrelevant to your job, would you do it? Maybe you would, but what if you had a limited amount of time to work on your medical thesis too?

          Don’t get mad. I’m just trying to be logical.
          Peace – Anonymous.

           
        • December 5, 2013

          Melissa

          @Daugenn,

          You say that beautiful handwriting shows character. So people with impaired motor function are inherently weaker/worse people than those without disabilities? Some people will have messy handwriting no matter how much they practice. It can improve but it still won’t be beautiful. It probably won’t even be readable until after a few years of practice.

           
      • October 12, 2013

        daugenn

        After reading all post, and being involved into education, my very last argument is really a question like . Do we have to copy mechanics with our body pratice or not ..!

        I defenetly think that we should not have to slave ourself that much to mechanical process like littles monkeys .Printing letters are for duplication and machines where each letter is a hit on paper … curved is like a living line playing with words and meaning this is also the phread of a thaught that flow smouthly from hands.

    • February 26, 2013

      henry

      Now you’ve got me doing it. JIBE!!

      • February 26, 2013

        mj

        No, Henry, the word you’re looking for is spelled p-e-d-a-n-t-i-c. :-)

        • March 4, 2013

          Al_de_Baran

          MJ,

          How long would it take for you to write “I support illiteracy” in cursive? :-)

           
        • March 5, 2013

          jo silerman

          The incorrect use of a word is not P-E-D-A-N-T-I-C, it is simply W-R-O-N-G.
          “Jibe” is the correct word to use.

           
    • March 12, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Re:
      “Her reply was that research showed children have better spelling if they use cursive.”
      Ask her to show you the research, or at least a citation (author/title/date and so on).
      Ninety-five times out of a hundred, people who claim to have seen research supporting some sort of super-power within cursive (to improve spelling, or anything else) are unable to find and she’s such research when asked to do so. The other five times, they’ll show you something but — on investigation, when you compare what you are shown with the original publication of the research — it turns out to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented: e.g., the study most commonly cited as “proving an advantage for cursive over print-writing” does not even involve cursive: the subjects were kindergarteners just learning the ABC, and it was a study of print-writing versus keyboarding as a method of alphabet practice. (And, yes, I can give you a citation for that study, on request. Misquotations/misrepresentations of they study are frequently in the legislative testimony under oath that is frequently — and often successfully —presented, in the USA at least, to induce a given state to mandate cursive handwriting in its schools. Again, ask me for details if you’re interested … )

      • August 22, 2013

        John Pollock

        In primary school I regularly topped my class in spelling but my handwriting was, and still is, appalling. I was frequently asked how to spell words when I worked, but people preferred my typed work to handwritten work. “Cursive helps spelling” does not work with everybody.

    • April 14, 2013

      Noor

      @ tyronen

      My son is also struggling with cursive and he just got into Upper Kindergarten. He is 5 years old. Cursive writing was introduced at age 4 for him.

      He is extraordinarily good with spellings and reading English story books.
      Although his fine motor skills are not that highly developed.

      The school insists that cursive writing is a MUST and all the other children at that age are writing and my kid was branded by the school to have a disability.

      I know its quite ridiculous, but some schools here in Kuwait are that bit crazy.

      If you don’t write, then you don’t score. Its like almost 60% of the exams are written for Lower Kindergarten. How absurd is that ?

    • December 12, 2013

      Leslie Fish

      Why do schoolteachers, who should know better, assume — and teach the children — that “Cursive” is the *only* form of script writing? Italic, which is taught in Finland (which has the best schools in the world), is much clearer, easier to learn, quicker to teach, much more beautiful, and retains its legibility far, far better than Cursive. I’m very tired of Cursive apologists trying to claim that *any* form of script is Cursive! It’s really funny watching them bend over backwards trying to pin that label on other alphabets, like Hebrew and Japanese!

  2. February 21, 2013

    rationalbloke

    Why do we get excited by trivia like this? We have a 26-letter alphabet which you can print, or form using ‘joined-up’ writing which ought to be easier and faster, that’s its point. In Japan you would have to learn to write 2,500 different characters to get to the level of a tabloid newspaper and over 6,000 to get to the level of a broadsheet. And each character has one and only one right way of forming it. Our system is incredibly simple and children, at the time they need to learn these things, are little learning machines. The only interesting question is why have we all got our heads so far up our fundaments that we think there us anything difficult here? There really is no excuse for this panic. Learn to read. Learn to write. Learn to write joined-up. Then get on with learning the things to which these give you access.

    • February 23, 2013

      Sam

      Couldn’t agree more although it must be said that cursive kanji is as different to ‘print kanji’ as cursive roman alphabet is to print… Never understood people who wrote in ‘print’, it just feels wrong. I miss handwriting.

    • February 23, 2013

      ned

      But the Japanese (and the Chinese as well) have only one system for forming characters. Why should we continue with two?

        • February 26, 2013

          Cactus Jack

          Sam,

          Don’t freak Ned out by bringing up hiragana and katakana.

           
      • March 7, 2013

        kyndo

        Nope.

        The Japanese have their ideograms (Kanji), as well as 2 entirely different phonetic alphabets (Katakana and Hirigana) depending on whether they are writing something in Japanese, or in a foreign language. Most Japanese can also read and write the Roman alphabet too (Romanji).

        The Chinese have 2 systems: Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

        And while we’re discussing the alleged usefulness of cursive, could we also talk about why we need capitalization? It doesn’t bring anything to the table, and it essentially doubles the number of characters we need to memorize.

    • February 25, 2013

      empiricist

      Quite right. This is feuilletonistic blather. Start with a fib, Then bring in an analogy not to be examined too closely . . . Learning to write isn’t easy??? Please. And then, a call for scientific evidence. I’d like scientific evidence this isn’t a total waste of time.

    • February 25, 2013

      MrMan

      “Learn to read”. Fine…no problem.
      “Learn to write”. Right there with ya.
      “Learn to write joined up”. One simple question…why?

      I’m sure as a “rationalbloke” you have a better reason than “it’s simple”. Because something is simple does not mean it is worth doing.

      My personal opinion is cursive writing should be an elective. If students want to learn they can…if not, they don’t have to. The inability to write in cursive does not prevent you from communicating your thoughts; it is simply the style they are presented.

      As others have no doubt pointed out….the vast majority of our written communications arrive in “non-cursive” style as we type them out on our keyboard.

      Get over yourself “rationaldude”.

      • December 11, 2013

        elfos

        Because I write in cursive as several billions of people in the world (the countries that don’t use this system anymore can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Canada, the US, Germany, Turkey), and some of my TAs and professors are unable to read me and to grade my homeworks and exams, for example. I understand that you don’t have to learn how to write in cursive, but thinking that being unable to read cursive is okay when most of Europe still uses it and Asian countries learn mainly cursive writing when learning a western language? Face it: your country is by far the most uneducated developed country in the world, because your education (and it’snot only about cursive writing, but about everything else) is being dumbed down exponentially as year passes; this, in itself, is a good reason not to dumb down even your writing system (and honestly, learning how to write in cursive is extremely easy).
        Plus, people argue that printed letters are way more readable than cursive letters. This is however true only when they are well-formed. Writing in printed letters is something that does not use the standard motions of your hands: it is pretty unnatural, and people who write fast in the printed system tend to twist their letters. If it’s true that some of my TAs/profs cannot read cursive anymore, it is also so true that so many more of them are always complaining of the twisted and unreadable printed writing of most students. I got something in the lines of “oh thank you fro writing in cursive, your homework was so much easier to read this way” so many times that I refuse to believe in any kind of superiority of the printed system when used for handwriting (of course, the idea of having a cursive system on computers would never occur to me, I am still only talking about handwriting). No, signatures ARE NOT normal, well-formed cursive letters; nobody in the world (except maybe some uneducated americans) consider them as such.
        And how can you even honestly compare printed writing to a the worst of cursive writing, a doctor’s writing? This is one of the dumbest comparison you could ever think of, as you usually want to compare the best of the printed writing system to the worst of the cursive writing system. It’s like comparing a professional football team to a high-school soccer team to argue that football is better than soccer. Rather think of it this way: if a doctor were to write with printed letters at the same speed a “normal” doctor writes in cursive without really paying attention, do you really think the letters would be well-formed and the printed writing would be more readable? The answer is no, it would not be readable at all either.

    • November 21, 2013

      Melissa

      That is very ableist of you. Writing isn’t easy for everyone especially those with motor problems. Everyone assumes that people can write cursive. People assume that everyone can ride a bike and that everyone can tie shoelaces. I can only do one of those things and I learned when I was seventeen. Stop assuming that everyone can do the things that you can.

  3. February 21, 2013

    Philip Ball

    tyronen,
    Thanks for that comment – you describe exactly the kind of teacher’s response that drives me crazy. The fact that there is NO such convincing link between spelling and learning cursive is almost the least of the problems with it. Let’s do the teacher the favour of supposing she really believes that such a link exists. Does she then seriously think that the reason to force kids to learn an entire other system of handwriting – at considerable evident cost in the case of your son, who is not unusual in this respect – is that otherwise they might experience significant difficulties with spelling? Of course not. What responses like this really represent is an attempt to make an inconvenient question go away. That just seems scandalous.

  4. February 22, 2013

    Carlos Gershenson

    Very interesting article.
    I wonder whether learning two alphabets (for reading and writing) could be compared to learning two (or more) languages. There is some research supporting that bilingual children are in general “smarter” than monolinguals.
    An analogous to physical activity: if you practice swimming AND running, you develop more muscles than if you only practice one of them.
    There might be cases of one getting in the way of the other, but I do not think it applies to alphabets.

  5. February 22, 2013

    Geraldine Carter

    There’s a very practical reason why cursive writing matters. Some children cannot, for instance, ,remember/ find a ‘beginning point for ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘o’ ‘a’ when printing. It’s a crippling, yet avoidable, disability. Forming letters by starting on the line, quickly corrects this tendency to muddlement. . .

    • March 12, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Geraldine — one problem with your supposition that cursive offers greater consistency of starting-point (for letters) is that EVERY cursive letter changes its starting-point whever it happens to follow one of the letters b/o/v/w. For example, check where the cursive “r” starts in “port” versus where it starts in “part” — check where the cursive “s” starts in “post” versus where it starts in “past.”

  6. February 24, 2013

    Philip Ball

    Geraldine,
    Sounds possible – but can you point me to the evidence? If it exists, Wallace and Graham don’t seem to know about it…
    rationalbloke,
    “which ought to be easier and faster, that’s its point” – but is it? Evidence?
    “Learn to read. Learn to write. Learn to write joined up. Then…” In the absence of any evidence that learning to write joined up helps with anything, this is as rational as saying “Learn to read. Learn to write. Learn to write upside down. Then…”

  7. February 25, 2013

    Jimhaz

    Print is way to slow.Manuscrip is way too slow. I would never have been able to take notes if I had to print everything. Cursive allows a kind of shorthand, that print style doesn’t. You might say “research supports you” but I have my doubts.

    Sometimes if I have to think of a words spelling, I’ll revert to print style for that word, then recommence cursive as it is much faster.

    I just googled the question and found that “The fastest way of writing, interestingly, was a combination of cursive and printing that joined some letters but left others unjoined”. Just what I do.

  8. February 25, 2013

    Andrew Levin

    cursive is technologically obsolete except as a computer font, there is in fact a high cost to the child to teaching something beyond its developmental age !

    kids still seem to be coming out of school thinking using facebook is the acme of computer skills ……………..

  9. February 25, 2013

    Jim Johnston

    Philip Ball, let me ask you direclty: do you maintain that once well learned, cursive has no speed advantage? If this is your belief, do you have evidence the rest of us could be persuaded by? My only evidence is from my own behavior. When I want no possibility of being misunderstood, and I have plenty of time, I print–slowly. In all other cases, I use cursive. I write many pages a week of cursive, mostly for my own reference. I’m quite confident it would slow me down greatly to abandon cursive. I always can read my own writing. I actually think that if I attempted to write non-cursive very quickly, it could become less legible than my cursive, and still be slower than my cursive. Cursive is quite optimized for a balance of speed and legibility, i think. Do you really think otherwise? Convince me, please.

    • March 12, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Jim — 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.)

      Cursive programs and teachers strongly discourage such practices. Students learning cursive are required to join all letters, and to use different shapes for cursive versus printed letters.

      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.)

      CITATIONS:

      /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub.
      THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY.
      1998: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

      and

      /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer.
      DEVELOPMENT OF HANDWRITING SPEED AND LEGIBILITY IN GRADES 1-9.
      1998: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

  10. February 25, 2013

    Aksel J.

    Lots of interesting points. I learned to write in Luxembourg, where we went straight to cursive. Didn’t learn to mimic printed letters at all. In fifth grade, having moved moved to the states, I had to teach myself a manuscript style script, which became a cartoony hybrid.
    Anyway, cursive has generally been the short-hand version of whatever was the formal hand; and then THAT became the new formal: Roman capitals to Roman rustic to Uncials to Half Uncials etc. and lots of even shorter hands alongside. Cursive just means “running,” after all, just like we join our “printed” letters together when we write fast. So it’s funny that cursive is now considered more elegant; in calligraphy, the more pen lifts a hand (script) demands, the more formal (and elegant) it’s considered.
    Since I have no reliable research references to contribute today, this is all just anecdotal. I found it exhilarating to learn to write different ways, it feels like it’s wiring my brain differently, like growing up bilingual. In adult years, having practiced calligraphy has actually made it easier to READ different hand writing too, presumably because you learn to appreciate that letters can be formed all sorts of ways. OK, so maybe it’s just enriching and not strictly useful to learn to write two ways, and maybe that’s not a good argument for making everyone do it.
    I agree that cursive writing tends to be sloppy today, but I’m not sure the complaint about illegible signatures has a point; people’s signatures can be very different from their written-out cursive.

    • February 26, 2013

      abridged

      Yes!
      I have been looking at how people make sense of paragraphs and breaks in text and there is absolutely some cognitive link between the physical act of writing letterforms and understanding text. Your comparison to learning languages was also spot on. There is so much going on behind the scenes here, am disappointed by the attitude of “this doesn’t look like it is useful, throw it out.” instead of “I wonder what is really going on, let’s find out.”

  11. February 25, 2013

    Louis Candell

    In my opinion, there’s little sadder than college graduates being unable to produce anything more with pen and paper than what appears to be the printing of a typical first grade student. In spite of what the author states, a truly educated person should be capable of producing more than infantile block letters which are taught, by the way, to the very young so they might learn the alphabet and develop fine motor skills. Such training is not meant primarily to teach writing any more than using a keyboard teaches handwriting. Legible cursive writing, like legible printing, demands that the writer take the time to produce legible characters. If one must produce a printed document in a hurry, then learn to type and use a keyboard.

  12. February 25, 2013

    Sophie Aimer

    perhaps for the simple reason that you instil in the children the possibility and equality of dual/multiple systems?
    developing their ability to accept different sets of norms?

  13. February 25, 2013

    Andrew

    While not directly connected with children learning to write in manuscript and cursive, I relate the following observation of our 8 year daughter.

    We live in Spain, where she is going to a French school, and being educated per the French curriculum with native French teachers. At home, she has a Spanish born and raised mother, and myself, an English born and raised Englishman.

    I would have imagined that her writing style would be uniform across French, Spanish and English, but now see that each of these three languages has, for her writing, a distinct style, that fits a ‘stereotype’ for the written word of these three different countries.

    Another personal observation, perhaps prejudiced, is that those from the USA have a very distinct style, usually illegible.

  14. February 25, 2013

    Marlon

    I’ve always avoided cursive writing because I’m so bad at it. I have two printing styles though, a blazing fast print style for notes to self or others and a very neat, legible style that I learned as a pre-CAD draftsman.

    A reason to stop teaching cursive that no one has mentioned is the time spent teaching it. Maybe that time would be better spent teaching other skills, such as critical thinking.

    • October 9, 2013

      Marion

      If the formation of cursive letters was taught from the outset, then NO time would be wasted in the process of having to demonstrate a new style to children thereby asking them to unlearn what has been previously been taught which is the case from print to cursive.

      • October 9, 2013

        Nan Jay Barchowsky

        Quite true. Yet, as it ts taught with every letter in a word connected, it falls apart in the hands of many. The hand drags along the paper for a multisyllabic word, pulling letters off the baseline and distorting letter sizes, shapes and slant. A better solution is cursive italic which is gaining popularity. Have a look please: http://www.bfhhandwriting.com

  15. February 25, 2013

    Besitz Belastet

    The supposition that most cursive handwriting is “abysmal” is no more empirical than cursive writing being “easier and faster”, to which the author apparently objects. I like to think that my handwriting is strongly influenced by the Victorian copperplate style; the assertion that “no one writes like that any more” is also conjecture.

    So why should we care? Because writing in this way is a recognition of our aesthetic heritage; many may not be able to master it, but neither can many east Asians master Chinese calligraphy. Let’s celebrate it, regardless.

  16. February 25, 2013

    Elle Martini

    Children learn to read “typed” script in books. This is a really a third form that should be considered, and actually makes a good argument for being fluent in the different kinds of script: print, cursive, and typed (consider the many different fonts these days). Young students become familiar with the variations in each, which enables them to read a sentence printed many different ways with ease.
    Maybe what we could do is skip the basic print we teach, and instead teach them to write the cursive letters, but not join them right away (they really lack the coordination). But we should teach cursive; people’s handwriting evolves into something that suits them, which is usually a combination of both. As long as it is consistent, it becomes their “signature.”

    • March 1, 2013

      Amanda

      In Australia, about 20 years ago, a new methodology for teaching writing was introduced. It is exactly as you suggest, Elle. i.e. unjoined cursive style letters are taught first, followed by the “joins” after a year or two, once the basic letters have been mastered. I’m not sure how this has impacted on the teaching of reading or on keyboard use.

      I will say, from my own experience, which was before this system was introduced, I can clearly remember how once I had learned to write cursive, it seemed as if a whole world of reading magically opened. Learning to print only had provided only limited reading ability, while a deepened comprehension of writing systems, achieved through learning cursive, allowed generalisation of the skill of reading, regardless of font or handwriting.

  17. February 25, 2013

    ;lj;lkj

    How about we teach them how to type? Amazing how many school districts don’t teach that anymore. What are they crazy? With the computer it’s the centerpiece of communication? They should be learning typing early! Like what do you need script for anymore besides your signature?

  18. February 25, 2013

    Chris

    In the service we were required to keep our log books in printed form. Absolutely no cursive allowed. (The ink must be black, no other color) The military must have a reason for that. The reason of course is legibility. Once one learns to print routinely, one becomes very fast doing it.

    I may have written a few letters in cursive in my day but today’s kids are going to text each other on their phones. There used to be a minimum requirement for a typist of 50 wpm. That wasn’t good, just the minimum. Now any 5th grader can type 50 wpm using only her thumbs. It’s time to face facts; cursive never really made much sense, and in today’s world it makes even less. Stick a fork in it.

  19. February 25, 2013

    Len

    Actually, I believe that there is evidence that cursive does have advantages over printing in terms of the various parts of the brain which are used. I believe this article may gives some indication of this and may point the other places with the scientific studies.

    http://www.helium.com/items/1697736-cursive-handwriting

    My own experience has been that while both my printed and cursive are equally legible to me and others (thanks to the Nuns at St Patrick Grade School). I generally write and take notes using cursive and use printing withing my cursive to lend emphasis to certain point. When I write in cursive I think more in terms of ideas while printing I think in words. I can also touch type but while typing I don’t really think at all but just transcribe the letters and word from paper to keyboard.

    Just my experience and 2 cents.

    • March 12, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Len —

      I am familiar with the Helium piece you mentioned. Here are two reasons that it fails to convince:

      /A/ The Helium puff for cursive relies on Helium author Beth McKinney a well-worn — and quite severe — documentable misrepresentation of the work done by the Johns Hopkins research team of R. L. Shadmehr and Henry Holcomb. Shadmehr and Holcomb’s actual research, unlike Ms. McKinney’s Helium summary, isn’t about cursive or about handwriting — it doesn’t even mention cursive, for instance, but is about motor functions generally.)
      To verify the above, if you like, I can not only give you a link to their actual research (to compare, on your own, with Helium’s misrepresentation), I can also send you the e-mail addresses of both researchers — so that you can check with them, as I have also done. (Both of the researchers are pretty upset about the number of times their research has been incorrectly described by Beth McKinney and other spin-doctors who thought that changing the research to be about cursive would his would make it, and the spin-doctors , more popular, which it did — by making the report less accurate. What do you think, as an person rightly concerned with handwriting, about Helium’s summarizing a piece of research in that way?)

      /B/ After misrepresenting the work of these two major researchers in the field of motor control, the Helium piece then recites the opinions of two salespeople of companies that publish cursive handwriting curricula (Randy Nelson and Iris Hatfield: Ms. Hatfield, in addition, is a practicing graphologist). The opinions of Mr. Nelson and Ms. Hatfield on cursive handwriting (which they appear to believe is magic) would have been far more compelling if the Helium piece had backed them up by anything more than two cursive handwriting program salespeople’s probable interest in saying good things about cursive handwriting. Seeing opinions presented as authoritative, right after seeing misrepresentations of research, does not increase my confidence in the Helium writer, in her sources, or in those who quote her Helium work.

  20. February 25, 2013

    Besitz Belastet

    So if in in today’s world we have “WTF”, “gr8″ and “OMG”, does it folllow that mean we should stick a fork into words written out in full, profanity aside? Txt language is very much part of today’s writing ecosystem, but it doesn’t replace complete expressions and sentences. Everything that has happened since Gutenberg, culminating in today’s instant electronic communication, has undoubtedly allowed for incredible efficiency in how we debate and exchange views – we certaintly wouldn’t be able to engage with each other on the pros and cons of cursive script in the manner we are now. The printed form provides a level-playing field, but handwriting is how it began and a handwritten letter from someone close to you is much more intimate than the printed word ever could be.

    It seems we are debating something without having a frame of reference: just what exactly is our objective? If we agree with the educational discourse that increasingly focuses just on what makes us economically productive, then fine, let’s do away with cursive script, and with that minority or any foreign language and anything else that seems to have no intrinsic worth.

    • April 24, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Today’s standard English — even at its least abbreviated — night have looked AND SOUNDED like a series of abbreviations to people living 1000 years ago. The word that they spelled “haefde,” we spell “had.” The word that they spelled “gedaeghwamlice,” we spell “daily.” The word that they spelled “hlafdige,” we spell “lady.” Wouldn’t they be sure that we could barely read or write, or that we didn’t even care to spell and pronounce words properly?

      ;-)

  21. February 25, 2013

    Jim

    You want a reason? The reason both methods are taught is because young children don’t have the fine motor skills required for cursive. We teach them block letters because they are easier to master when they mainly have gross motor skills. Then, at the appropriate time, we begin teaching them (and here’s the money quote) FINE MOTOR SKILLS, which is important to development. The vehicle through which we teach fine motor skills is cursive handwriting, which is a worthy pursuit in and of itself, because it teaches us to create something externally beautiful that is also intrinsically beautiful…written human language. I know this won’t make much sense to those who think science has to explain everything; oh well. We are human beings. We create things of beauty. And the violin analogy broke down immediately because you could as easily have said that cursive lettering is akin to playing multiple notes on a single bow stroke in third hand position, where block lettering is akin to learning “mississippi hotdog” in the middle of the bow.

    • February 26, 2013

      David Binsk

      Nobody needs a “reason” per se — there are innumerable different reasons that people give for teaching cursive — they want a good reason, supported by good evidence. Cursive does not have that. As others said, you could teach children to write upside down, in hangul, tracing cuneiform, what have you. The question is why you would do any of it. Cursive has no good answers. Even the aesthetic arguments fail, because the vast majority of cursive is abominable to look at, far worse than the average regular script. The fact that it *can* be made beautiful does not mean that it *is* beautiful.

      As far as the comments that printed letters are somehow more “childish,” I find that absurd given that (a) most adults throw cursive away as they grow older, leaving it a relic of elementary school education, aka childhood, which is why we are having this discussion in the first place; and (b) adult books are not printed in cursive, but rather regular print. It is not remotely childish for an engineering textbook to be in regular script, for example, and would actually come across as far more “childish” if it were printed in cursive. Handwriting is not different in that respect.

    • February 27, 2013

      Sam

      We should get rid of P.E. also then. The kids don’t have the motor skills to hit a home run, kick a soccer ball into goal, stack blocks, run without falling down, etc. It’s called practice….. it makes perfect like everything else. God forbid we peel their hands from their video games, which they seem to have the fine motor skills for.

  22. February 25, 2013

    Muggins

    This topic is similar to teaching children to tell time by an analog clock, when we live in the digital age. Children can handle the challenge of learning cursive. It’s not that taxing or time consuming. A more important question is, why don’t we teach young children a 2nd language starting in grade one?

  23. February 25, 2013

    Philip Ball

    First, whether I agree with the comments here or not, I am mighty glad that there is a debate happening here. It’s overdue, I think – so thank you all for engaging.

    Second, I figure I need to put myself on the line here. A few of the comments have expressed doubt/incredulity that print could be as fast as cursive. This is of course hard to test anecdotally, since we all get as fast as we can with whatever style we acquire (and most are forced to acquire cursive). I might claim to be something of an exception since, as I mentioned, I skipped the school years in which cursive was taught. My rapid note-writing is now a mix of print-like and ad hoc “joined up” (it can’t be dignified as cursive), and is as fast as anyone else’s, at the cost of no additional effort. I will post a sample on my blog site (http://philipball.blogspot.co.uk/), since I can’t stick it here. Make up your own minds – I certainly don’t claim it is beautiful, but it seems serviceable and legible without my having been put through the grinder of having to relearn how to write. In other words, if we want speed and legibility, we don’t need that imposition – it’ll happen anyway. Perhaps more relevant than any of this is the fact that I have found no definitive study which shows any significant speed or legibility advantage for cursive over print. I think Jimhaz is right that a mixture of both seems to work well. That doesn’t need to be taught – indeed, it’s not clear that it can be.

    I submit also to your judgement as to whether my handwriting is, as Louis Candell puts it, “infantile block letters”. If my writing marks me out as not “a truly educated person”, so be it. But if the horrible cursive that many people end up (as they will testify themselves – Marlon, I sympathize) is a sign of “true education”, I’m not too worried.

    • February 27, 2013

      Janet

      Phillip, you are actually using a loose form of italic handwriting which is the cursive you probably learned in an English school, although you have stopped joining most letters, it is quite readable and a tribute to your teacher.

  24. February 25, 2013

    Stephanie

    I reject the notion that teaching children to write in two different forms is somehow overtaxing or creating unnecessary challenges. I distinctly remember learning to write cursive in 3rd grade (I’m 23 now). The fact that cursive letters look so much like the same letters in manuscript meant that it wasn’t difficult to pick up at all. I remember being frustrated that we were asked to repeat writing the same letter so many times when once or twice would have sufficed. This argument reminds me of an argument in another article I read recently. That writer said that to teach children about people who are transgender would be to create unnecessary challenges for them. Why complicate matters by telling our children that not everyone is like them, is the question the author is essentially asking. The analogy here is far from perfect. My point in bringing it up is to illustrate that we should not treat children like fragile dolls. They can handle a hell of a lot more than adults give them credit for. Even learning to write in two different ways.

    • February 25, 2013

      MrMan

      Maybe because that time could be better spent. I’d much rather young people be taught a second language than a second method of writing (especially because the vast majority of written communications will be type out, not written).

  25. February 25, 2013

    Bob Bell

    I am 59 years old. I learned cursive when I was about 7 or 8. It’s very useful for signing my name to legal documents. I don’t know how I’d sign my name if I hadn’t learned cursive. Other than that, I haven’t used it since 9th grade.

  26. February 25, 2013

    Tom

    As far as cursive = better spelling, I can’t imagine that that’s true (why would it be), but it does seem likely that teachers would have a more difficult time discerning whether a word was misspelled or whether it just looked like it might be right.

    However, the reason for learning cursive is that when we put the quill to paper, it is much more likely to result in an inkblot, so individually formed characters means a page full of ink spots. On the other hand, if we use cursive, not only are we introducing the nib to paper less often, but when we do have an ink spot, we then draw out the ink by moving quill through the blot onto the next letter.

    As long as we continue to primarily use quill and ink pot we need to use cursive writing. Now if someone were to come up with some other writing tools, like pencil, felt tip, or ball point pen we could do without it.

  27. February 25, 2013

    Neko

    It might be interesting to note that a debate about this is going on in Germany, with some of the “Bundesländer” counties set to abandon the teaching of cursive while others are sticking with the traditional dual system. Apparently the new method is to consist of teaching “print” letters with additional lessons on how to join these up when writing for speed. In a few years this could provide a nice large-scala data set to analyse.

  28. February 25, 2013

    Neko

    It might be interesting to note that a debate about this is going on in Germany, with some of the “Bundesländer” counties set to abandon the teaching of cursive while others are sticking with the traditional dual system. Apparently the new method is to consist of teaching “print” letters with additional lessons on how to join these up when writing for speed. In a few years this could provide a nice large-scale data set to analyse.

  29. February 25, 2013

    Kitty Florey

    I’d like to draw your attention to my book Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, which makes a strong case for teaching children (and adults!) Italic script — a sort of compromise between printing and cursive. Some letters are joined up, some not;- it’s all up to the writer . And the script produced is legible, attractive (based on a 16th-century model), and easy to master. I recommend the Getty-Dubay system for learning Italic — a quick Google will find their website easily. The need for quick, reliable, legible handwriting isn’t going to go away.

  30. February 25, 2013

    HDoug

    As a split-the-difference compromise maybe we should be teaching kids italic, the modernized form of Italian Humanistic cursive. The letter forms are very much like the print forms kids start off with and it becomes a cursive by joining those letters as one wishes. It may not be quite as speedy as curlicued roundhand cursive at its speediest, but the letter forms are very similar to type fonts (many of which are based on Humanistic letter forms to begin with) and are easy to read as a bonus.

    The question of how much handwriting we need to learn in this keyboard world is a separate question with different controversies, but I think we would be doing our children a favor if we taught them how to express themselves in writing without over dependence on devices.

  31. February 25, 2013

    Alan

    Cursive script probably originated in a time when paper was relatively expensive and each application or removal of the pen – or quill – ran the risk of forming an ink blot. Joined up writing reduces the number of such events. Pencils and ball-point pens came much later, by which time cursive was firmly established. In my own case at school all submitted work had to be in ink, and the writing legible.Taking classical Greek reintroduced me to separate letters,and thereafter I used mostly separate letters when writing for someone else to read e.g. my secretary,and kept my scribble to myself. But how I wish I had been taught to type!

  32. February 25, 2013

    Joe Orbachov

    Well, this is an interesting debate. I have one reason to learn cursive that I haven’t noticed being raised in the above comments, or in the article. That is, *people do use it.* I remember when my younger brother had no knowledge of cursive, and could not read a handwritten letter that had arrived from Grandmother. A school system that did not teach the traditional system of handwriting—which everyone is bound to encounter now and then, even in the age of twitter and digital everything—would be deficient, no?

    I should declaim that I personally have always been fascinated by writing systems of all kinds, and when I was taught cursive, I immediately wanted to know where it came from, and that lead to finding out the origins of our alphabet, and I ended up learning the greek alphabet, and then the cyrillic, and then the korean, and so on. They all have conventions for handwriting, separate from printing. I am still fascinated by conventions of handwriting especially in this digital age, where they are not as irrelevant as they might seem in a rash glance.

    Why are these conventions important? Because without conventions, it would be even harder to read a doctor’s handwritten prescription; if one had no idea what stroke direction and order were expected by convention in a chinese character, rapidly written characters would be completely illegible, or at least much harder to guess. The same is true in our orthography. I struggle to read the rapid writing of people who use their own idiosyncratic system of “joining up”, rather than the conventional one, if it differs drastically, because I just don’t know what I am to expect for the letter-shapes.

    If we wanted, we could surely design a writing system that was much more intuitive, much less easy to misread, and simpler to write (what about eliminating the system of majuscules and minuscules, for a start). But it wouldn’t be very useful if that new system were all that were taught in school, because how could one read a letter one received from Grandmother, who writes in old-style cursive?

  33. February 25, 2013

    charlotte

    Children need to be taught from the start to write the letters of the alphabet with rudimentary “tails” So the letter “a” would be written with an oval and then the down stroke forming a little tail curving up to the left.That helps for an easy transition to cursive. All letters can be taught like this from scratch. There’s nothing wrong with cursive. An adult who can only print often has immature looking handwriting. I think the problem is that we force our children to school at ages 4 and 5. THAT IS WRONG. Finland ‘s children start school at 7 and are top in all the OECD league tables for everything. This business of starting children at school so early and then forcing them to write in a certain way before their fine motor skills are developed, is wrong. WE are robbing them of their childhood. Let them have fun drawing circles, loops, lines and patterns and then learn to keep these on a line. THEN learn the letters.Some children will however be able to learn writing their alphabet earlier. Also how many four or five year olds actually KNOW their ABCs? There you are. We’re trying to teach them to run before they can walk and thus setting them up for failure. of course handwriting may become obsolete with widespread computer use. I shudder to think what would happen if there were a total EMP blackout in the world…. We wouldn’t be able to communicate!

  34. February 26, 2013

    luke

    My own story.

    I had horrible hand-writing all through my school years. I didn’t care. I noticed that a subset of the girls at my school took to the ‘joined-up’ writing in a big way, and eventually took great pride in their beautiful cursive script. So nice writing was for girls.

    Eventually, as an adult professional, I started to take a lot of notes. My personal aesthetic sense was horrified by my wobbly scrawl. Like wearing a bugs bunny tie. I took to printing everything in caps – now *that’s* slow – which was an improvement. I eventually taught myself to write cursively again (thanks, youtube), and now everyone says ‘gee I wish I had nice writing like yours,’ as if it were an attribute like height or eye-colour. They also say ‘hey can you write names and addresses for our wedding invites?’ Sure, I say.

  35. February 26, 2013

    Barb

    I have been a specialist reading and writing teacher for most of my life. If children learn to write using printscript which is very similar to print in books this form of writing is perfectly adequate for them to use for the rest of their lives. That is if they have learnt to form the letters correctly therefore making their writing legible and easy to write quickly. I think that cursive writing could be a choice for older children. The ‘link’ between cursive writing and spelling evades me completely. In my opinion they are two totally different skills and the only link they have is that spelling uses letters whether they are printscript or cursive.

  36. February 26, 2013

    Ford

    I gave up cursive in high school (when submitted work was still handwritten) because what I produced was ugly, painful to read and painful to write. My printing is now quite rapid, not ugly to look at, and, crucially, easy to read.

    Does keeping the pen pressed to the paper between letters (still raised for i’s, t’s, punctuation and spaces) really confer such a time saving?

  37. February 26, 2013

    Thomas Root

    Maybe we should teach them to write cursive so that they can read cursive, and so read the handwritten documents of their parents, grandparents, and culture. Why orphan them?

    If you cannot read the handwriting of previous generations, are you really literate?

    • February 26, 2013

      Michael Church

      This is an interesting question, but I wouldn’t want to push the line of argument too far. Personally, I wish that my education had included instruction in reading the various medieval handwriting styles — Anglicana, Secretary and so forth; I find most of them extremely difficult. The same is true of ancient handwriting; it is easy enough to read Greek and Hebrew when they are printed in modern fonts, but the forms found in ancient manuscripts can be extremely challenging. For that matter, the Romanian language was customarily written in Cyrillic letters until the late 18th century, and in Roman ones after that. All told, comparatively few people are truly “literate” enough to read the handwriting of their ancestors, and this is a shame. But I am not certain that it is the best use of primary education to remedy this condition.

  38. February 26, 2013

    Don Phillipson

    ” Learning to write isn’t easy. It would make sense, then, to keep it as simple as possible.” Similarly, riding a bicycle is not easy — but is this a reason not even to try? The point is that riding a bike is liberating, in a way cursive handwriting is also liberating, and an elegant hand is worth the effort, in the opinions of those who have acquired one. (The opinions of those who cannot is not worth counting, any more than opinions about bicycles by people who cannot ride one.)
    One of my books reproduces the autograph book of the D’Oyly Carte company, with signatures of about 30 singer/actors who joined Gilbert and Sullivan between 1878 and 1901. Every one has a legible and stylish signature, perhaps at that data a minor professional asset. None signed with the childish letters or illegible scrawl common among eminent people’s signatures today.

  39. February 26, 2013

    Suzanne

    I know why people were taught to write in cursive – the answer is simple. Before ball-point pens everyone used quills or later on pens that held the ink but had nibs. Because of that it was much easier to form words without lifting or segmenting the letters.

    I do agree that cursive is probably antiquated (much like black-lettering) but there is something to be said about having that additional training and influencing children’s choices. I am an artist and have studied type but before that when I was little and learning cursive; the lessons inspired me to look further into it and I then discovered Black-lettering, Illumination and other forms of type that previously I had never known. I think that it shouldn’t be required that children use cursive but should be taught how to write in this manner and how to read it. Otherwise, how are they going to read that fancy wedding invitation?

    • February 27, 2013

      Don Phillipson

      “Before ball-point pens everyone used quills or later on pens that held the ink but had nibs. Because of that it was much easier to form words without lifting or segmenting the letters.” This seems mistaken. Children learned to write first on slates, from approx. 1880 with pencils and from approx. 1910 with crayons — never first with ink. Pen and ink were introduced only after cursive in pencil had been mastered, and usually with a view to developing fluent and legible handwriting.

  40. February 26, 2013

    Bob

    As others have pointed out, the author of this piece is ignoring an important advantage of cursive writing: speed. I am in my 20s and almost always write in cursive because — newsflash! — it allows me to write much more quickly. Why he wishes to deny people a more efficient form of writing is beyond me.

    • December 5, 2013

      Apophis

      I agree completely with Bob here. I’m 23, currently in my last year of college. I find that I am usually a page ahead of my fellow students during in class essay exams. Cursive is faster. Being dyslexic, I find cursive to be much better for me due to the fact that a word in cursive format is a continual motion rather then it printed counterpart which is made up of individual components. However that being said, learning cursive in 5th to 6th grade will do nothing for the student. Cursive has to be learned early and continually used in order for the student to mature and develop their own cursive style.

  41. February 26, 2013

    Leigh

    As another posted: “The fastest way of writing, interestingly, was a combination of cursive and printing that joined some letters but left others unjoined”.

    It’s the combo that works best for me. Can’t imagine block printing something lengthy – the constant “breaks” stop the flow – particularly of thought. But combining the two so that the pen doesn’t constantly leave the page is the way to go and can be very distinctive.

    And, like driving a clutch, cursive can be something to brag about – becoming a lost art. (Never know when it’ll come in handy, too – like being able to read the Declaration of Independence.)

  42. February 26, 2013

    Janet

    Last summer there was an article in The Chicago Tribune “Why handwriting Matters”.
    The many health perks of good handwriting
    Not only does it help the brain develop, it can also improve grades and confidence
    June 15, 2011|By Julie Deardorff, Tribune Newspapers
    - See more at: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-15/health/sc-health-0615-child-health-handwriti20110615_1_handwriting-virginia-berninger-brain-activation#sthash.Ce5upEx0.dpuf

    As a teacher of calligraphy, I strongly advise that parents find someone who can teach their child italic handwriting which is closer to printing and is the method taught in Europe.

  43. February 27, 2013

    modalursine

    I’ll give another vote to mixed style, some legtters joined, some not, some in manuscript form, some in cursive form, as the quickest.

    But if you want to teach kids to write quiclly, theach them a shorthand such as “T Line”.

    The real reason to teach cursive writing is precisely because it does take time and effort. You can’t “fake” having had the sort of education that teaches good cursive handwriting, so having good cursirve handwriting becomes a mark and advertisement of said education.
    It is a class (no pun) marker. It separates the educated from the rubes.
    That’s why one of the earlier comments mentioned the teacher who characterised manuscript as “baby” writing. From a strictly logical point of view it is a circular argument, but socially its spot on.

    As long as status distinctions are the main thing, we need to have cursive writing. Cursive is well suited to that purpose and to no other practical or aesthetic.

    Certain forms of caligraphy are at least as beautiful as ordinary cursive, I would say more so, without being truly “joined”, i.e. without being itself a cursive form. So much of beauty and for “fine motor control”..

  44. February 27, 2013

    Gail

    I had a strange introduction to cursive writing. When I started kindergarten (in Australia at age 5- a great many years ago) I could write my name, draw a passable map of Australia, and write the letters of the alphabet all joined. Teachers found this quite extraordinary. It came about through a simple tin tray my father had made. Dye-stamped into the tray was the alphabet, my name, the map and numbers one to ten. You put your pencil in the shallow groove and followed it around. This was a long time ago, we didn’t yet have television and I would spend hours with my pencil and the tin tray. I can’t remember how I made the transition to writing on paper but I don’t recall any real difficulty. My little tray was fun – best way to learn anything!

  45. February 27, 2013

    Sam

    Handwriting is extremely important in the business world. I look at people’s handwriting constantly and, tend to judge people on it…. sorry, but it’s true. I wish schools would spend more time on handwriting. As for the cursive or printing debate… that is a preference and a natural decision everyone will make. There is strict printers, beautiful calligraphists, or a hybrid like mine. Learning cursive helps develop fine motor skills and will make printing more legible in the long run because it gets the mind in the pen. Getting rid of something because it’s hard? Really? If that’s what the argument is then I am pretty scared for the future of our kids. Time to grow up, people, and stop writing like we are still in second grade.

  46. February 27, 2013

    Dave Pickett

    I had an interesting discussion on Facebook about this article. Several of my friends pointed out that the majority of historical documents in English are written in cursive, so teaching cursive is important for deciphering them.

  47. February 27, 2013

    Philip Ball

    Thank you Janet for your generous assessment. The truth is, however, that I never stopped joining up letters because I never started – I was never really taught cursive.

    I am enjoying this debate, and am interested to see how opinion seems to be falling on the side of hybrid/italic styles. I came across several pieces of research which suggested that this is probably the optimal style. But just to reiterate: the main issue seems to be that it doesn’t much matter which style you’re taught, as long as the teaching sticks with just a single one. (I still suspect, however, that there is some value in not having the written letters deviate too much from those children learn to read.)

    I just want to clarify one thing: the argument is most certainly not that we should stop teaching cursive because it is too hard. Rather, there seems to be no justification for teaching children to write in two different ways. Sure, they’ll mostly manage, as experience shows. But I want a better justification for teaching my children print AND cursive than simply that they’ll be able to manage both eventually. There is no end of things we could in principle teach our children without overtaxing their brains – to speak Sasak, to play the nose flute, you name it. But there must surely be a positive reason to do so – especially when so much time is devoted to it. And I suspect that reason needs to be rather stronger than that it will enable children to read their grandparents’ letters.

  48. February 27, 2013

    nietky

    Replace cursive with touch typing. The large number of non-touch-typists (including me) out there should be a cause for public concern, given that many people suffering RSI induced by less efficient forms of typing are likely to be less productive. And for no reason other than a lack of training.

  49. February 28, 2013

    Catherine

    Proper cursive where you do not lift your pen from the page at any point is a fast and cheap aid to spelling as you use the motor and spatial part of your brain to remember the word shape as well as the linguistic part of your brain to deal with the phonics. The sooner it is taught the better – the later you learn it the less help it is. There is a strong argument that cursive writing is literacy and printing is graphic design. It is nothing to do with what it looks like but the fact that cursive writing in the flow and the speed aids both spelling and thinking.

    You talk about teachers as they are evil beings who just think up nasty ways to make children work for no reason. Why would they?? But it is not just teachers (and what do they know, they just work with kids all day) that support cursive. The British Dyslexia Association recommend cursive too http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-dyslexia/parents/help-with-handwriting.html . It is not just in Britain either. A quick web search showed me that Texan schools are recommend cursive too http://www.cleburnetimesreview.com/local/x640620454/Write-or-wrong – that’s just one example – I found lots.

    In answer to the either / or … in Hillingdon in the 1990s all five year olds were taught cursive from the start. Printing was only covered in art lessons as part of graphic design. That’s one solution but parents weren’t very supportive I believe.

    As a dyslexic I use cursive as it helps me. As an English teacher (for five years 1995-2001 – now a bookseller) I preferred my students to use cursive. As a parent I want my daughter to use it. Why would I do that if there was all this evidence to the contrary (none of which you actively reference – you quote an opinion from a academic that dismisses reach but does not quote any of his own, and you make delightful use of dismissive language ‘unearthed’, ‘dusty’, ‘tenuous’, but again no support).

    Anyone looking for a good well referenced over view might want to read How to Detect and Manage Dyslexia: A Reference and Resource Manual By Philomena Ott which quotes research from over three decades (including Cruickshank 1961, Bannatyne 1968, Hickey 1977, Phelps and Stemple 1987, Cox 1992, etc -all later than US survey from 1960 that you quote), on the effectiveness of continuous cursive provided it is taught properly and early.

    What is really sad is not that all teachers push cursive on poor unsuspecting kids and their misinformed parents, but that actually not all schools offer cursive even now, though the evidence is very strong in it favour.

  50. February 28, 2013

    Alberto

    I think cursive is important and am happy the school is teaching it. I do think boys are slower at it than girls.
    My cursive writing is something I am proud of, my mother stressed it as well. My daughters are very into cursive, being 3rd and 4th graders.
    But I switched to script in college as my then girlfriend was an architecture student and their style of script, to me, was and is amazing.
    Now people comment on my “weird” script. My kids have hounded me on it so much that I have slowly started going back to cursive.

  51. February 28, 2013

    Ophelia Stimpson

    I’m not sure I agree. The teaching of cursive handwriting is a symptom of the written exam system and not a questions of aesthetics. I am a student, and to print my handwriting during exams would waste valuable time; I even have friends who print their handwriting normally and then switch to cursive in these situations.

    Children might struggle to learn 2 modes of handwriting but their minds are
    like sponges – a restriction on what we teach them makes no sense, because their learning has never been a question of managing but of mental expansion. Surely typographical adaptability develops their visual/spatial intelligence?

  52. February 28, 2013

    Philip Ball

    Catherine,
    Thank you for these comments, which at last cite some evidence to get to grips with. I will check out the book you cite, and associated references. I had references in my original text, but Prospect doesn’t carry such things (most magazines would not). The people I consulted have explained their own positions in, e.g. S. Graham et al., J. Educ. Res. 91(5), 290 (1998) and R. R. Wallace & J. H. Schomer, Education 114(3) (1994).

    No, I really don’t believe teachers are evil beings who think up nasty things to foist on their pupils. They have a tremendously difficult job, and many do it brilliantly. But given that the primary recommendation of the British Dyslexia Association site that you cite is the same as the one in my article – that children should be taught only a single handwriting style – don’t you think it is reasonable to ask why most schools, at least in the UK, ignore this recommendation? As the BDA says, “For children with dyslexia, learning two styles of handwriting can add an extra layer of difficulty and cause confusion.” That’s precisely my point.

    The issue of whether the preferred style should be cursive or not is secondary to this issue. If cursive helps dyslexics, that does seem a good reason to consider it as the choice of which style to single out. But even if that is true, the corollary is not obvious. Without wishing to seem insensitive to the challenges of dyslexia, do schools gear their mathematical teaching methods for all children to systems that help those with specific cognitive difficulties in numeracy? If all else was equal, then certainly this could tip the balance – but as the comments above indicate, some learners struggle with cursive in ways that they don’t with print. So how do we find the right priorities?

    Furthermore, if the advantage for dyslexia are recognized as THE reason to teach cursive, why don’t all teachers seem to know that? Why do they seemingly come up with a random selection of other justifications? (In other words, while you say that teachers support cursive, they don’t seem to agree on why.) And why then is cursive still awarded this aura of sophistication and grown-upness, as even the Texan teacher in the article you cite admits? You say “There is a strong argument that cursive writing is literacy and printing is graphic design.” To me that sounds merely like a strong prejudice.

    And do we really know that cursive helps with dyslexia? It seems to in your case, and I’m prepared to believe there is hard evidence of that being generally true. But the BDA site does not (understandably) give it. It simply lists, without evidence, several of the standard arguments. Number 4 in the list – that cursive helps with speed and spelling – seems to be without foundation, which makes you wonder about the others. (Number 3 – the clearer distinction between upper and lower case – escapes me.) So we’re not really any further along on that basis.

    Finally, aren’t you bring just a little disingenuous in citing the Texas article as supporting the case for cursive when it begins by pointing out that Texas is one of only five US states that haven’t abandoned cursive. To use your reasoning, would 45 states have got rid of it if there were such compelling reasons not to do so?

  53. February 28, 2013

    Catherine

    You’re right in saying there is an inconsistency amongst what teachers know, and the reasons they give. The front line here are primary teachers who are by necessity Jacks of all trades – what the teachers teach, and how, will depend on the knowledge and experience of the subject co-ordinator (literacy in this case) and you get good and bad literacy co-ordinators. They in turn have the their head teachers knowledge and prejudices to deal with, and the local educational advisers (a fast disappearing service) behind them.

    As to whether the style for all should be determined by dyslexics – we’re not just talking about the hard cases of multi-faceted learning difficulty – many children have problems spelling. Many dyslexics (especially at the milder end of the spectrum) are diagnosed late. I was taught cursive when I was 7 fortunately for me. I was not formally diagnosed as dyslexic till I was in the 6th form. It would have been no help to me then. Despite problems with my written language I did get to university (eventually – lots of A level resits) and did read English. Cursive is not the only reason I managed that, but I am convinced it helped. I should also add that the current style of teaching numeracy (that baffles so many parents – number lines and no more carrying the tens) is based on resolving the problems of a sizeable minority who can’t crack place theory in addition and subtraction – so there is a precedent for this route.

    My handwriting is appalling to look at by the way, a lot less attractive than yours – I support cursive not because I think it looks nice (it can but you’re either neat or you’re not), but because I think it works.

    Interesting article though – and it is nice to see handwriting being discussed.

  54. March 1, 2013

    Gene Manfra

    I taught drafting and architecture in public school for 30 years. All of my students learned to print in what would be known as an “Architectural” style lettering. Most of it was uppercase, common for architects and draftsman.
    Some also developed a very distinctive lowercase style, which allowed them to write (print) rather quickly. Many of those students went on to study architecture and work in the profession. Almost all of them use, and are proud of being able to write, in this very legible and distinctive style, for everyday correspondence.
    It does not preclude them from using cursive writing, but most find it is rarely needed, except for possibly a signature.
    All of this notwithstanding, I would certainly replace the time spent in school teaching cursive writing to learning to type. It has become almost a necessity for anyone using any device with a keyboard.

  55. March 2, 2013

    John

    This article led me to take a closer look at some of the handwritten documents I read every day in the course of my work as an historian. These items were written between 1750 and 1774. I examined three of these documents today. I compared each one to what I’ll call “standard modern cursive” or “SMC”, which is what I believe is described by the author of the article above. The most important characteristics of SMC appear to be first, that each letter is connected to the next (this is why our teachers insisted we put “tails” on single letters when we practiced writing individual letters-so that we cold then use the tail to “join” the next letter) and second, verticals are loops in cursive vice a single stroke in printing.
    The first document I examined was a four page letter written by a man from Schenectady, New York in December 1761 to several of his friends. The writer was a surveyor, businessman, and a local political leader. At first glance his handwriting appeared to be SMC, but close inspection revealed important differences. The initial letter of almost every word stood alone, unconnected to the second letter. The exceptions to this rule were when the final stroke ended in a natural “tail” ready to connect to the next letter. In some words the remaining letters were connected as in SMC, but in most words the remaining letters were organized in sub-groups of two or more letters each with a slight but discernible amount of extra space between subgroups. The letters within each sub-group were written cursively, but the entire word could not be said to have been written cursively. The break between subgroups appeared to be at points where the writer’s technique ended a letter at a point on the paper where it would have been at inconvenient, inefficient, or simply ugly to have created a tail joined to the next letter. This 252 year-old handwriting looked very much like the mixture of printing and cursive that one sometimes finds today, and is similar to such digital fonts as Santa Fe LET.
    The second document I examined was also a letter. It was written on July 17, 1750 by a New York attorney to a colleague. The handwriting is almost perfect SMC. Rarely are any letters unconnected to the following letters. There are a few instances of the practice, however, and a few instances where the continuity of line is broken within a word but these are difficult to discern. They sometimes give the impression of the pen lifting smoothly off the paper just before starting the next letter, or they could result from the pen running out of ink. The handwriting is quite easy to read.
    Compared to the 1761 Schenectady document, the letters within words are grouped more tightly together and very evenly spaced. The lines of script flow evenly across the page and are parallel and evenly spaced vertically. Overall, the New York letter is much more “finely” written. I would not be surprised to learn that it had been written by the lawyer’s clerk or by a scrivener. The fact that the elements that characterize the Schenectady letter are present in the New York letter, albeit as rare exceptions, suggests that the “Schenectady style” may have been the most common or widespread, while “better” handwriting aspired to be much closer to perfect SMC as we know it.
    Therefore, while there may have been a “standard” cursive in the 18th century, it appears that there were, in practice, variations that contained elements of both printing and cursive and yet were completely acceptable according to the standards of colonial society. Such variations still occur today and are perhaps evidence of writers modifying strict cursive to suit their own style of forming letters. I find it difficult to believe that children who show more mastery with computers than their parents find learning cursive confusing or hard.
    Instead I suggest that it is printed letters which are abnormal. Printing presses and moveable type require individual letters that are not connected to each other so that a piece of type can be used anywhere in a word. Our books and magazines have always been printed this way, for this reason and so when we teach children to read, we have to teach them how to read printing. Learning to write in printing surely assists in learning to read printing. But when we were taught to write “formally” we were taught cursive because that was how letters and other documents had always been written when written by hand. Today there are digital cursive fonts such as Snell Roundhand, so printed matter is no forced by technology to be written in printed characters. The question, then, is why NOT teach cursive? And why not produce printed matter in cursive as well?

  56. March 2, 2013

    susan

    ok, drop cursive–we have typewriters–and speech to text

    drop arithmetic– we have calculators

    drop reading– we have text to speech software.

    drop foreign languages— we have google translate

    drop algebra, trig, calculus—we have mathematica.

    drop literature—who needs those silly stories.

    drop history—the past is dead.

    then, we can have time for sports. every parent’s child will not have to struggle with
    brain work.

    and, after the next solar superflare—we will be back in the stone age.

    • March 2, 2013

      Cactus Jack

      Susan wrote: “…then, we can have time for sports. every parent’s child will not have to struggle with brain work.”

      Susan is onto something: If the kids all excel at sports–and I mean truly excel–then all of them can get full athletic scholarships to colleges (well, Division I colleges–and there would be such an influx into, Div. II and III schools would have to extend equivalent scholarships to take in the overflow from the big schools!). As a result, parents will have more money to spend on the latest technologies, buy that second home up in tall pines, and vacation to the far-flung four corners.

  57. March 2, 2013

    susan

    drop all aesthetics:
    who needs to learn about Mozart or Bach? we have hip hop.
    don’t teach drawing—we have photoshop.
    Michelangelo—how will that get my kid a business job?

    all of this is the inevitable effect of turning education into job training, and the inevitable
    cultural leveling dehumanization.

  58. March 2, 2013

    Philip Ball

    susan,
    I’m going to point out the obvious only because this confusion seems to crop up a lot in this debate, especially in the US. It is really very simple: a suggestion to stop making the teaching of cursive obligatory or standard is not the same as a suggestion to stop teaching handwriting. Most of the discussion above has been over the question of which should be the preferred handwriting style we teach our children. I would strongly oppose any suggestion that handwriting should not be taught at all. This unthinking equation of handwriting = cursive is a big part of the problem.

    • March 3, 2013

      susan

      in that case, my vote is to replace cursive with Spencerian.

      but, in my experience, our local school board uses “cursive” to mean “non- printed”,
      and i believe this is generic in the united states.

      • March 5, 2013

        Nan Jay Barchowsky

        In the US the common assumption is that “cursive” equals writing that joins every letter in each word, and which changes stroke directions and shapes from the print-script letters that are usually taught in the earliest grades. Italic writing is sadly not well known amongst teachers and other educators.

  59. March 3, 2013

    Mateusz

    I am a newly-qualified primary school teacher in England, and I want to add just a few points to this discussion.

    1.) In the UK, most schools do not teach true cursive. They teach a hybrid “joined” style based on the Nelson Handwriting Scheme published by Nelson Thornes. Certain letters (b, g, j, p, q, x, y, z) are never joined in this style.

    2.) Primary school teachers in the UK receive NO training at all in teaching handwriting.

    3.) Primary school teachers have very little control over what is taught. This kind of thing is a whole-school decision taken by senior leadership. In most cases they just go with what they have always taught (generally, the Nelson scheme).

    4.) Teaching and practising handwriting skills does make a real difference to children’s writing. Even in primary school, children’s writing development is certainly held back if they need to think about the formation of individual letters or are too slow. It’s all about fluency. (And contrary to some comments above, we do expect children to be able to write at length in primary school.)

    5.) It does not follow from (4) that children need to be taught a joined or cursive style.

    6.) There are opportunity costs in teaching handwriting (or anything else). Every hour spent teaching and practising a particular style of handwriting is an hour that could be spent on other things, including developing reading, writing and maths skills, not to mention art, history, languages etc. The commenters above who argue we should devote extra time to teaching a particular, beautiful cursive style because of heritage or tradition would be the first to object to the cuts in time allocated to other subjects to fit in extra handwriting practice.

    My personal opinion? This is surely an empirical question. There must be some research somewhere showing what style of handwriting (or possibly, what approach to handwriting instruction), best enables children to write fluently, legibly and quickly, with minimal curriculum time.

  60. March 3, 2013

    susan

    most americans do not know that there are different styles.

    post 1950′s, at least:

    our public schools ( translation: state schools) taught ” commercial cursive” (mostly)
    calling it handwriting, or “cursive”.

    our private schools taught “palmer method”, calling it handwriting or “cursive”

    When i began teaching math at an elite private uni, my students response to my
    commercial cursive was to complain that my blackboard letters were unclear.

    I switched to italic—and, they then complained that i wrote like a martian.

    Finally, I used Palmer, and all was ok.

  61. March 3, 2013

    susan

    Philip,

    Here, in the USA, many school systems are dropping all but printing.

  62. March 3, 2013

    Philip Ball

    susan,
    Thanks, I kind of see what you mean, I think.
    Well, sort of: by “replace cursive with Spencerian”, I think you don’t mean “stop teaching cursive and teach Spencerian”, but “use the term Spencerian instead of the more generic cursive”…
    In my book, handwriting means writing by hand, rather than, say, typing. So printing is handwriting. It sounds from what you say as though that is not always understood to be the case, but it would seem odd to me to restrict the term handwriting to a particular style of handwriting. Indeed,that’s essentially prejudicing the discussion from the outset.
    My suspicion is that, if we are to teach a single writing style (as we should), an italic form might be the best compromise. But in my personal experience, print works fine: it will evolve into a form that suits (for speed etc) as handwriting matures, just as cursive becomes somewhat personalized over time (unless you’re educated in France).
    Yes, I understand US schools are starting just to teach print. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves. My suspicion is that, so long as the requisite penmanship is well taught, along with other necessary literacy skills, there will be little difference. But it’s troubling to hear that (presumably relatively advanced) students find it so hard to decode any script they have not been explicitly taught.

    • March 4, 2013

      susan

      philip wrote:
      // Well, sort of: by “replace cursive with Spencerian”, I think you don’t mean “stop teaching cursive and teach Spencerian”, but “use the term Spencerian instead of the more generic cursive”… //

      Yes, or even ” american cursive”

      for the history, here in the states:
      http://spencerian.com

      these styles are hard for young children—and, is why most americans
      have very poor handwriting.

      done well, and slowly, they are beautiful. they are best done with special pens.

      calligraphy.

      done in a rush, half learned–in a few weeks–at the age of nine, with a ballpoint pen—it’s a hopeless
      muddle.

      but, all of our schooling here was based on these forms, or their degenerations.

      for practical, fast, clear writing—i like italic

    • March 4, 2013

      susan

      philip wrote:
      // Yes, I understand US schools are starting just to teach print. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves. My suspicion is that, so long as the requisite penmanship is well taught, along with other necessary literacy skills, there will be little difference. //

      yes, as happened in germany when they dropped teaching gothic.

      but, it is part of a general lowering of our elementary education, and that is very scary
      to me.

      philip wrote:
      // But it’s troubling to hear that (presumably relatively advanced) students find it so hard to decode any script they have not been explicitly taught. //

      it certainly troubled me.
      they also have trouble with non-american english–both words and accents.

    • March 6, 2013

      kevinmcl

      You said: ” My suspicion is that, so long as the requisite penmanship is well taught, along with other necessary literacy skills, there will be little difference. But it’s troubling to hear that (presumably relatively advanced) students find it so hard to decode any script they have not been explicitly taught. ”

      That was in response to an earlier post from someone who taught college level courses at an “elite” school and was nagged by the students to modify her/his script on the chalkboard until it resembled what they were familiar with.

      Two points, then:

      1) It was an “elite” school, so the students were accustomed to getting their way, and they simply prevailed upon the servant to comply.

      2) “Elite” or not, once the edjumacatin’ gets serious, there’s no time for extraneous material that might detract from curriculum-specified class time. If the students must learn certain material in a certain timeframe, and you add unrelated cognitive load, you are reducing the speed and ease with which they can apprehend the primary material.

      On the other hand, there IS that alternate view that you value more and you commit more strongly to things you must struggle to learn…. but it does take more time to do so, and …. see above about curricula and time available per semester or trimester.

  63. March 4, 2013

    susan

    if americans were taught the terms:
    spencerian
    american cursive
    ; they would not conflate all non-printed handwriting into “cursive”.

    • March 6, 2013

      kevinmcl

      If Americans were taught the terms that the world uses for many things, they wouldn’t:

      a) tell people from other backgrounds to “speak ‘Murrican”

      b) talk extra loudly – in American English – seeking to be better understood by people from/in other countries.

      :-)

      Kevin (in Canada, eh?) who has seen exactly that in Montréal

      PS: For what it’s worth, I agree with who said that the purpose of teaching printed handwriting is as an aid to the student learning to read – you learn more quickly and thoroughly when you participate in multiple modes.

      Although, come to think of it, that would probably be a LOT more true if the language was more than vaguely phonetic. … sorry “vayglee fonetik”

      I’m less and less persuaded, after reading this ongoing conversation, that there was a lot of need for my grammar school to have taught me cursive writing. Like many, I tend to print short notes or anything that I want someone else to understand. My cursive writing (we switched, from one year to the next, from some other style, to Palmer) was once quite a bit faster than my printing, but has slowed and slopped from decades of neglect.

      Finally, as I stand here – walking at 1.2 MPH at my makeshift treadmill desk – I’m making these legible maunderings on a keyboard, of course. If I was trying to write or print while walking like this, no OCR app in the world would stand a chance of deciphering the mess.

  64. March 4, 2013

    susan

    which we commonly do.

  65. March 4, 2013

    susan

    philip wrote:
    // n my book, handwriting means writing by hand, rather than, say, typing. So printing is handwriting. It sound-s from what you say as though that is not always understood to be the case, but it would seem odd to me to restrict the term handwriting to a particular style of handwriting. Indeed,that’s essentially prejudicing the discussion from the outset. //

    in fact, in my elementary education, i was actually taught that: handwriting is
    a synonym for cursive—and, that both meant: nonprinted writing.

    i suspect that’s generic, here in the states.

    i belabored this, but i hope it clears away some confusion.

  66. March 4, 2013

    chris

    There’s a very simple reason for learning cursive: speed. When my students are taking lecture notes inevitably the one’s who know cursive are more accurate, thorough, and specific. And they don’t interrupt and ask me to repeat because they couldn’t get it down fast enough. And I’m talking college kids here.
    A second reason is the ability to read primary sources, e.g. letters, diaries, notes, manuscript edits etc. If you can’t write it you probably can’t read it.

  67. March 4, 2013

    LeoL

    Gosh, no wonder I’ve never really been drawn to ‘Britain’s Intelligent Conversation’. You all talk about such deep things, at such length.
    And there was me thinking the What was more important than the How…

    • March 5, 2013

      susan

      sometimes, simple stuff matters—and, reforrn of elementary mass education is one of those cases.

      On the other hand, if you want to start a thread on applications of the Atiyah-Singer index
      theory to twisted cohomology, I’m game.

      ( with apology to Bruce Jay Friedman, whose play Steambath, inspired this response,
      which is NOT intended as sarcasm.)

  68. March 4, 2013

    david woodward

    The terminologgy here is so vague as to make sensible discussion impossible. There’s a world of difference between an over-complicated and debased copperplate hand and a rational conceived italic like the one advocated by the famous Puffin Books manual in the 1970s. The one has its roots in deliberately written letters that are intended to impress through their showinness, the other in an efficient 15th century way of writing quickly and economically (italic).If children were taught a simple version of this from the start, there would be far fewer problems.

    • March 5, 2013

      susan

      yes.
      there is a world of difference between practical quick writing, and calligraphy.

      most of the style guides for italic–such as the popular johnson italic books–are focused on
      calligraphy.

      Copperplate requires a special pen to do correctly.

      • March 5, 2013

        Nan Jay Barchowsky

        Susan, are you implying that italic is calligraphic, and not well suited for everyday, rapid handwriting? It is taught to Finnish children, and they are the worldwide leaders in education. And of course, italic is taught elsewhere.

        When I first started to teach italic handwriting some 35-40 years ago, some were concerned that I was trying to teach young children calligraphy. Far from it! Students were, and still are learning a practical hand.

        • March 5, 2013

          susan

          no.
          i am saying that many books on some forms of italic are aimed at calligraphy.
          the book, that i first learned italic from, was titled “intro to italic calligraphy”. it
          was not aimed at school children.

          here, in america—most people had never heard of italic—until, the books of johnson
          et alia, inspired italic calligraphy as an adult hobby.

           
        • March 5, 2013

          susan

          in fact, i think–and said in an earlier post–that my vote is to teach italic to school kids.

           
  69. March 5, 2013

    Deborah Hemstreet

    I remember learning violin. I was good. And then I had to learn vibrato… and that is what stopped me from progressing. Though I never told anyone. I simply was terrified of learning vibrato. I wish I had not been and that I had kept up, but too late now.

    Perhaps part of the problem is the teaching methods? Perhaps part is our over-dependence on keyboards. I find I type far more than I write anymore. But when it comes to creative writing, nothing fits like hand writing.

  70. March 7, 2013

    Angus Armour

    Another perspective: how children are taught to write is physically quite different from Victorian technique, which involves a shoulder movement rather than wrist and finger – a bad form in Victorian schools, and difficult for children developing fine motor skills. Look at the picture accompanying this story: a tight hand grasping a pen. Now look at an instruction book from the 1800s and see a form where the pen is held with the same force as a chopstick (ie balanced between fingers not clutched). In that form, writing becomes an art, a craft or a skill to be developed.

    • March 8, 2013

      kevinmcl

      Angus,

      Try balancing any ballpoint pen like a chopstick.
      The tip doesn’t get enough pressure to reliably transfer ink.
      That differs from quill and fountain pens, which can/should be held more delicately.

      I can sketch a bit, but not with enough talent to go anywhere, so I’ve taken beginner drawing classes a few times in my life. Sometimes there was emphasis on whole-arm movement. Other times, there was no mention of it – one was left to get the stroke of pencil, pen, chalk, or charcoal onto paper as one saw fit.

      The same applies to the teaching of penmanship. Some traditions emphasize the arm movement, while others just concentrate on the movement of the pencil/pen tip at the paper. The former are aimed at the long haul, but suffer a certain lack of positive feedback to the student in the early hours of instruction. The latter gets the student producing something, but possibly to the detriment of a base of good physical habit on which to build.

      I think there’s value in teaching the basics of proper movement, but that delays the start of ‘usable’ results, whereas getting little Janey and Johnny to produce letter-like scratchings as soon as possible satisfies the modern need for “results now, refinement later, if ever”.

      I think I just made yet another argument for private schooling over publicly-funded schooling. It’s the divide between “preparing little aristocrats” and “teaching to the test”. Or perhaps, the difference between privately-held or family firms that plan in terms of decades, and publicly-held companies that plan against quarterly reports.

  71. March 7, 2013

    Gene Manfra

    Since I posted some remarks on March 1, from my experiences as a teacher in an American public school, I have been following, with great interest, the various threads of this conversation on handwriting.

    The breath and depth of some of the postings is profound and proves that education is indeed a life-long process. It appears that discussions regarding the pros and cons of cursive handwriting will not run out of material for a long time, but perhaps an infusion of fuel from another source will prolong this worthwhile conversation.

    I suggest: “The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting” by Philip Hensher, Published November 27, 2012.

  72. March 7, 2013

    Nan Jay Barchowsky

    Today I received an announcement/ad from Zaner/Bloser with a video. The first part of the video showed the personal impact of handwritten messages over printed ones. Then it showed several images of children writing—all with death grips on pencils.

    Attention goes to the value of this alphabet or that, but never to the means to achievement of fluency. Children come to school at very early ages. They are taught an alphabet. They are NOT taught how to write that alphabet for ease of writing.

    Look around at older persons. Most write with a relaxed hand. They may have started school when they were around 6 or 7. They probably had chores to do at home that strengthened their hands and developed fine motor muscles. They definitely did not use their thumbs to play electronic games.

    We must overcome this failure to teach a fluent skill. The answer is in pre-writing play, lots of it!

    • March 8, 2013

      kevinmcl

      Nan Jay,

      You have something there, but unless the whole group is being taught the skill too early, there might be something else going on, as well.

      Recall your early schooling.
      Chances are, it began on an early-September morning.with a bunch of expectant little faces turned to a new (to them, if not newly minted) teacher.

      But a look around the classroom shows some faces looking more confident, some faces looming a little taller than others. Some bodies bigger, stronger, faster.

      My point is one that Malcolm Gladwell and others have made – chances are that the oldest and youngest children in that one class are as much as a year different in age.
      Variations in natural talent aside, much of the difference in apprehension of skills will be due to the difference in physical and mental maturity. That can be an enormous difference when you are talking about 1/5 of a person’s total lifetime, to-date.

      Now magnify the problem, as you suggest, by trying to push the acquisition of such a skill earlier by a year for some imagined competitive advantage – make ‘em learn their ABCs in kindergarten, rather than in Grade 1. The result is a lot of desperate little fists grasping the pencil however they can, and imprinting that grip for the rest of their lives. And some of them are at least half a year younger than their classmates, and barely out of diapers…. er…. nappies. :-)

      I think it wouldn’t merely be penmanship that would improve if we were to install children into smaller cohorts that started (say) three times each year, rather than all together each September.

      I also think that would go a long way toward lessening the well-known situation where SOME children look forward eagerly to the start of each new school-year or semester/trimester, while others look forward with dread.

  73. March 8, 2013

    Muggins

    I counted the letters on the keyboard, and it’s 26. That’s all, but twice that (OMG) if you count capital lettters. I don’t remember all that much class time being used to teach that. The underlying premise in this string is that it takes up too much class time, or the child only has a limited learning capacity, or that the kid could be damaged by being forced to draw shapes on the page.. ~wrong~ (My handwriting improved because of my tendency to run at the mouth. I forget how many times I had to write in cursive, “I will not talk in class. I will not talk in clase….”, after school, while the teacher hastily graded quizes.) If you teach 2 styles of writing, the student then has a choice. If you teach one style, the student is stuck with whatever style the schoolboard chooses. But my intended point is, we’re wasting the potential, that is to say, actually negatively affecting the lives of our children by fretting that they are working too hard. Why not teach them a 2nd language starting in the first grade. Why? We don’t think the child has the capacity? Instead, we wait ’till they’re in high school, and their brains are set, and their hormones raging.

    • March 8, 2013

      Nan Jay Barchowsky

      It is pretty well established that one learns a 2nd (3rd or 4th) language best at the earliest possible age.

      I believe the time allotted to handwriting instruction is restricted by the need to include technology in the curriculum. It may be more important to teach a second language, or even grammar and spelling than to teach more than one method of writing. This is why I am an advocate of italic, the method with just one way to form characters.

      • March 8, 2013

        kevinmcl

        Where’s a good place to see examples and instructional material for general use? As you would have been taught it in early school?

        By that, I mean NOT for the calligraphy crowd.

        I’ve probably seen examples everywhere, but just hadn’t realized that’s what some folk were calling it.

  74. March 9, 2013

    John

    I know you say it’s best not to look at the analogy too closely, but I do find it humorous that you chose the violin as an example, since two methods *are* taught to children. Did you know this and just feign ignorance, or is it truly an example of irony?

    Just as the child masters the “Suzuki” method, they are told they need to learn the ‘adult’ method which requires actually reading music.

    While I think I agree with you that it isn’t important anymore to learn how to *write* cursive, I do think it is important to learn how to read it. Or these kids will be let loose into the business world, and receive a handwritten memo from a boss a generation or two years older, and be unable to read it.

    There’s also the question of what they will do years hence when they find the letters written by their parents or grandparents in the attic. They’ll probably cry and wish they had learned to read cursive, so they could read what their parents/grandparents wrote so many years ago.

    • March 11, 2013

      Nan Jay Barchowsky

      There is absolutely no reason to convert one to right-handedness if the dominant hand is left. Especially in handwriting! Usually the left-handed child is given little or no help with paper placement and pen hold so that hey can avoid the awkward, and frequently painful hooked wrist. I have taught many left-handers with no evidence that their writing quality is better or worse than right-handers.

      • March 11, 2013

        Peter Piper

        Whoever suggested there is a need to convert adept left handers to writing with their right hand? Note: I don’t use the conventional ‘dominant’ label for handedness since they are each ‘dominant’ for different activities. Just one example should suffice – one hand is the holding hand (eg jar) and the other the manipulating (eg unscrewing lid).

        The purpose of my comment is to draw attention to the fact that none of the previous comments had mentioned the fact that the single most relevant factor in poor literacy (and a lot more) is the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand – irrespective of which hand is adept. In short the reason for so much non-progressive previous comment is at best ignorance or at worst intentional denial of this ‘condition’.

  75. March 10, 2013

    Olivia

    Personally, I think it depends upon the person – some people prefer cursive and others prefer print, as long as their handwriting is readable then it shouldn’t be a problem.

    I think the way my first school dealt with the issue was quite good. We were first taught to write in print, and those who struggled with doing so were then given a different booklet which enabled them to learn to write in cursive; eventually, everyone had found their ‘way’ of writing and both print an cursive were taught in the same class. When learning to read, we were taught to read both cursive and print; consequently meaning that from a young age we were able to read both.
    My mother writes in print, it’s not ‘babyish’ is many would say and is very neat, as well as being reable.

    • March 10, 2013

      Olivia

      - Sorry, ‘readable’ not reable.

      Additionally, I’ve never been able to write in print, no matter how hard I try – the letters get all jumbled up and instead it ends up looking like a four year old has written it. Instead I write in cursive, I’ve had no one asking me what certain words say and I’m complimented quite often on my handwriting. Because of that I think it’s a matter of preference, some people find themselves drawn to print and others to cursive and if possible, I think schools should be taught both.

  76. March 30, 2013

    Heidi Cole

    I have 3 boys, the oldest 2 split the schools removal of cursive. My 12 year old son has excellent cursive, and his 11 year old brother was never taught. (they were also not taught to type there was not enough room on the computers due to a new math program so they got rid of the typing program.) Now I have a child in 6th grade who can not write, or type, and uses capitol B and D even in the middle of words because he can not tell the lower case apart in print. When he has to write anything it is a nightmare!!! I think the makers of Dragon (dictation software) are behind this. My 3 year and 2month old has mastered the print alphabet (upper and lower case, he can tell b and d apart). He can not attend Kinder for 2 more years, and you can bet that he will be able to write in cursive, and type by the time he gets there. I think that we under estimate what kids can do

    • March 30, 2013

      Muggins

      @ Heidi Cole
      Yes, with the best intentions, we are worried that we are giving the kids too much information. This is squandering our most important resource, as a society, as the kids are information sponges, especially in the early years. It’s a shade of neglect to withhold or postpone foundational education from our children. We should be more concerned about raising the quality of education, rather than trying to thin it out. As a product of public education, I’ve seen the difference between private schools and public schools, and the public schools do not match up.

  77. April 1, 2013

    Bob Jones

    I learned to write in a cursive style when I was in third grade (1956-57). Up to then, we all printed. I do not remember having any problems making the transition, other than the usual false starts that occur when learning something new. We did not call it cursive, either. We called it “real writing” as if printing was what you did until you learned to write the way words were supposed to be written. It was learning to do something adults did even though you were eight years old (see “baby writing” in the article). There was a sense of pride in being able to do it. Not everybody developed a good hand, but then not everyone was a good reader, or good at math, or good at playground games, either.

    What I feel learning cursive did then was teach me fine motor skills, which children lack today, and about an artfully drawn line. Today, I write drafts of articles and the few books I have published in cursive, because the ideas flow out of my mind through my hand more freely than when I type. Since printing does not have a flow, but stops at every letter, I have no desire to even try that experiment.

    A few commenters have mentioned about being able to read cursive as creating a link to the past, connecting ourselves with the people who lived in an earlier time, or even Grandma’s birthday cards today. This is more important than we might imagine. What we don’t want to create is a society where we always have to be keeping up with the new, and the old becomes valueless the instant it is replace by the latest upgrade. Handwriting 3.0. That might be fine for cell phones and smart phones and iPhones, but those are gadgets. When we can read cursive we can connect with the people who created our past and always be able to.

    Even though that might sound like a good idea, you might think, is it that important to spend valuable classroom time over? It was in 1956. We spent time on it, and still have time to pursue our other academic subjects. I don’t think that when we emerged from eighth grade we were any less educated than eighth-graders are now. It’s just that we didn’t have assessment tests that dominated our learning, which is another subject and not a pretty one.

  78. April 8, 2013

    Tony Knox

    I’m learning Arabic at the moment (at the age of 62). There is a similar distinction in Arabic: printed texts are written in naskh, and this is what students start writing. But handwriting is done in a quite different script, with quite different rules – ruq’a – which is more flowing and very fast to write (almost closer to shorthand than to European cursive).
    Like most students, and most children, I began by learning to write naskh but am now shifting to ruq’a. For me, it’s not such a big deal.

  79. April 16, 2013

    Poorvaj

    I cannot comprehend why there is such a big brouhaha over something as inconsequential as cursive handwriting. While this article really intrigued me as i read, it also prodded me to wonder why anyone would give cursive writing such a ponderous view, and more than that, question its existence.

    We, our parents, our grandparents, and beyond them, have all grown up around letters and the general art of writing. Of course, better things have been introduced in the course of literacy and the whole arena of pedagogy, and better techniques of teaching and learning have made their way into the educational world. But have things come to that point where you teach your 3 year old to depend on the digital alphabet so much so, that when at the age of 10, he needs to write on a piece of paper, at a certain occasion, he scribbles “baby writing”, creating doodles on paper? This is just a step towards making our generation wholly dependent on technology, just because we will eventually end up punching in the keys on the beyond ubiquitous computer keyboard.

    Also, it is a fact affirmed by evolution, that living beings evolve as generations pass by, and develop better, more positive characteristics; the theory of selectivity. At the age of our children, we sure weren’t as forward and quicker with our brains as our children are right now; shouldn’t they, by this theory, find it a lot easier to overcome the “curse” of the cursive than we ever could? So if we begin to make excuses just to mitigate their struggle, thinking there are better things to learn, it’s time to take a step back.

    Moreover, i’m bemused that the writer has never experienced and relished the beauty of cursive writing, and yet proposes to reject the very idea. There is no beauty comparable with the light emanating from a handwritten word. Why do you think handwriting/cursive fonts are still a favorite among typographers and graphic designers? Cursive is not only taught to embrace by habit, the speed of writing; it is also an art and a form of self expression.

    No, cursive is not overrated; there are (and there have been) a huge number of children out there who live with a handwriting that is beyond atrocious, and are still the brightest and smartest of kids around. Whereas, there are others with a hand skilled beyond perfection in cursive, but aren’t exactly the teacher’s pet for the paucity of scholarly intelligence. But who knows, the latter could include the modern Max Miedinger or Khurshid Gohar. There are some fundamentals of education that, if remain intact, add to the beauty and elegance of education and it would be nice to let them stay as long as they can.

  80. April 24, 2013

    Paul

    I too heartily recommend the Getty-Dubay writing system.

    Their system teaches its students one manuscript/’printing’ form of italic writing, and then teaches how to join those same letter shapes into a cursive italic form.
    The cursive follows-on from the manuscript, and does NOT therefore require the child/learner to have to ‘unlearn’ everything that they already know.

    I recently managed to find a copy of their book ‘Write Now’ (which is out of print), and that shows how to progress the cursive italic into a cursive italic done with an edged pen – a kind of simple calligraphy.

    Legible quick handwriting is a basic tool for communication, and equips its learner with a future-proof means of encoding, storing, and communicating information that does NOT require batteries, mains electricity, or obsolete digital storage media in order to decode/retrieve the information.

    • April 24, 2013

      Kate Gladstone

      Re Getty and Dubay’s WRITE NOW — in he foreseeable future, it may be worthwhile to keep checking for new editions. It’s been through a few of them — and I’ve noticed that, during the months or the year before a new one appears, it sometimes goes out of print for a short time.

  81. May 4, 2013

    Max

    Anything too hard for an American is un-American. Therefore to make public education totally American, we have applied our national genius–dumbing down–to our own children’s education.

    As a result, when compared with children of other leading industrialized nations children in America–supposedly the world’s leading nation–score a lot lower in basic skills than most of those other nations’ children.

    Ours score lower than children in China, whose nation is not yet fully modern or industrialized. China’s current trajectory gives us a lot to think about.

    So rather than teach basics in year-one, we pass children unable to read, write, or count into the next year and on up the line. Our idealized solution–ensure that all get at least two years’ college. Only, rather than advancing young Americans, those two years will be remedial ones, when they must learn what the prior 12 years did not teach them. Twelve years are a lot!

  82. May 22, 2013

    Camille

    I must first say that I enjoyed reading this post today. I do have to ask you to think about this a little more. When we have music instruction, there are different schools of thought as well. To play by ear, to learn to read music, or both. If you are a parent, you may want your child to learn both, that way they get every advantage.
    Teaching both cursive and printing is our responsibility. It is our responsibility as citizens of America and the world. We should teach both to give our children every tool they could possibly need to have, as the rulers of tomorrow. Every citizen should be able to read the newspaper and the Constitution.
    To keep things in perspective, it takes about 15 minutes a day to practice cursive writing, or print for that matter.
    You mentioned barbarism.
    Do you remember back in time when the Barbarians invaded the Roman Empire?
    The Barbarians destroyed all the books in the libraries. Not only that, but they had no interest in reading or writing because they were barbarians!

    The barbarians did not know how to write, and the Roman citizens that were conquered soon forgot that they had ever known, for they no longer had educated Greek slaves to teach the art to them. Except in a few places where the Church remained at work, writing became a lost art. (The Old-World Beginnings of America By Mary G. Kelty)

    History has already proven that writing can become lost art.

    It is our absolute duty to teach the basics to our most beloved children, our leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.

  83. June 6, 2013

    Adriane Baldwin

    My son learned print in prek and K. He began cursive in 1st grade. He is now 8 yrs old in 3rd grade with beautiful cursive. He has excellent spelling, excels in reading at “modern” high school level, doesn’t write his letters backwards. My son is not a genius just an average child. He is taught to read using rich literature literature that does dumb down large vocabulary words. Yes times are changing, but it is our younger generation that will effect those “changes” in the future. We want to move forward, yet let’s not drop the richness of the American culture as well. Reading and writing and communication skills have become so standardized. I believe children can learn about modern technology while being well educated in true modern reading and writing from the past great minds. I don’t believe my children will suffer from learning cursive. They have many many years to learn print (which is easier to learn after learning cursive, rather than the other way around). Cursive is artistic as well, so yes, I believe when a child or adult writes in cursive, they are using the creative side of their brain. There’s a lot more to the world we live in than technology. My kids also find technology interesting and figured out how the computer worked at a young age of 4. This comes natural. They also are taught about modern technology in the world they live in today. Cursive and learning how to read (and understand, no dumbing it down) rich literature makes for well educated minds of the future, that are even more capable at excelling in all they do, including science and technology.

  84. June 25, 2013

    Natalie

    I didn’t even finish reading it, maybe it got positive to the side of the fact that cursive writing is like brain massage. Once you learn the letter, can write Manuscript it just seems to me that the association of letters from manuscript to cursive is not that great of a feat if one begins to playfully connect the manuscript letters together. I just think it is an art, not only an art but an excellent trainer in focus. And how wonderful it is to get a handwritten letter in the mail these days, be it manuscript or cursive… Who knows maybe manuscript is male and cursive is female…ooooh what if females only learned cursive and males only learned manuscript…who could then decipher better? Blah blah blah…I did enjoy the writing, I just was jumping in and out….gonna get back to drawing…. :) peace out!

  85. June 29, 2013

    JuuRokuChan

    I say teach it all. Print, cursive, and typing. I learned print in Kindergarten, cursive in 2nd grade, and typing (for me) also started in 2nd grade. I didn’t find it extremely difficult. In fact, because I learned cursive, I now have very fast, legible handwriting that’s a combination of print and cursive. Also, because I learned typing early, I don’t have to look at the keyboard anymore to type, which quite a few of my peers do. (I’m going into 9th grade.) I think if the grade level is right, then teach all of it. It’s not going to kill you. I also agree with rationalbloke up there, if you look at other languages, ours is pretty easy to write. (Japanese–omg.) I don’t think we should make a big deal out of it. Handwriting could be taken as an elective, like someone up there ^^^ said, and calligraphy could be taught in that class as well. (Although, I don’t think many people would take the class…) I also saw a post from someone that said we use cursive to teach fine motor skills… that’s a very good point! Anyway… as I was scrolling… and scrolling… and scrolling (lol) through ALL the comments, I came to realize one thing: We’re actually having this debate. If you think about it, it’s kind of funny. All these different views just for one little part of the school curriculum. It’s interesting. :D Thank you, Mr. Phillip Ball, for writing this article, because now I got to see how many different ways this could be interpreted. I got a good laugh.

  86. July 12, 2013

    Kate Gladstone

    To “Al_de_Baran” —

    When David Sortino’s essay (that you cite) originally appeared, I asked both Reza Shadmehr and Henry Holcomb (the researchers whom Sortino cites) whether Sortino’s essay had correctly summarized their work. Both Shadmehr and Holcomb informed me that Sortino’s essay seriously misrepresents their work. Further, both Shadmehr and Holcomb showed me their research, and showed me precisely where he’d been misquoting each of them. (For one thing, their research did not involve cursive handwriting, and therefore did not involve measuring any results of cursive handwriting lessons.)

    I contacted David Sortino about this, of course; so did Shadmehr and Holcomb. Sortino did not respond to any of us. However, I later heard from an admirer of Sortino’s that the admirer considered it wrong of Shadmehr, Holcomb, or me to note that misrepresentations had been made. “The fact that I agree it’s a misrepresentation,” he said, “cannot be relevant, when the misrepresentation is done with the intent of supporting cursive. Things that would be self-evidently incorrect to do in support of other goals are self-evidently correct when the goal is the support of cursive.”

    What are your thoughts about that position — or about the decision taken by Sortino, in the first place, to misrepresent research?

  87. August 15, 2013

    Carlos

    I believe cursive and print both still have places in education for a few reasons:

    1. Teaching both methods allows differently inclined/skilled students to choose the method that works for them most effectively. For some that may be print and others cursive.

    It’s similar to allowing left-hand people to write left-handed instead of forcing them to write right-handed as was practiced for a long time.

    Everyone has their preference that allows them to learn most effectively, so why deprive them of that ability? Personally, if I were forced to continue writing in print, my intelligence would be judged as lacking because I have terrible print. But the connected, italic cursive allowed me to write closer to the norm quickly and easily.

    2. To reiterate the point of an above supporter of cursive: because everyone, or the majority of people, do it. A lot of people write in cursive. Don’t get me wrong, in many areas of life conformity is a terrible idea. However, in language conformity is very important. It allows you to communicate effectively, understand others, and be understood in return. So, teaching this skills of communication that are so close, but still have many differences is very important.

    3. Finally, not all people write print letters the same. Some might write very straight letters like the ones you’re reading right. Others might write more italically. Usually, these are regional differences. So, coming from the US, my print handwriting(even at its best) would look different from yours. For example, some’s itallic print(their standard) would contain 1s that would look really close to 7s.

    So, introducing different styles at an early age can aide them when they encounter something written in another style later in life, even if it’s still in the same language.

    This last reason is somewhat analogous to the studies done on children who learn one or more language(s). Those who learned more language were able to differentiate very minute changes in cues in different languages even they didn’t know the meaning of what was being said. Meaning, the were able to notice the difference in the sounds where other subjects couldn’t.

    As there is so much variation between and within different languages, I strongly believe that we would be doing children a huge disservice if we didn’t prepare them as much as we could to face diversity in more globalized economy and society.

    • August 15, 2013

      Nan Jay Barchowsky

      Both of you comments today are excellent, well, in that you agree with me!

      Just one thought about presenting children with the method of handwriting most comfortable for them. Children are taught to write before they are able to make a choice, print-script, conventional cursive or italic. So, it is up to the educator to begin somewhere. An alphabet model is needed. I provide a basic italic. (See http://www.bfhhandwriting.com) You apparently chose italic. Nevertheless I do not insist that the young student continue with that model. If the older student, adult is to have satisfactory handwriting, it must be allowed to develop individually–with a bit of guidance to keep it on the legibility/speed track.

      The problem is that teachers were never taught how to teach children to write. Surprisingly, it takes little classroom time to give students efficient handwriting instruction, if only they learned how when in Early Childhood Education.

  88. August 15, 2013

    Carlos

    One more point, I like many others here think that more schools should teach typing. However, I don’t think that it should come at the expense of teaching handwriting. As hard as it may be for many of you to believe, a lot of people in the world still don’t own computers or aren’t computer efficient. These people could be the elderly, the poor, and people from “developing” and “third world” countries. So, handwriting is still a very important skill in today’s world.

    My typing is bad even though I had “computer classes” scheduled throughout a lot of my education. For the majority of my schooling the class didn’t have much typing instruction or it education at all. We’d spend five minutes of typing instruction on the first class and then the teacher would just give up and say ‘ok, time to play computer games and not ask questions.” I honestly think that the purpose of that class was for the school to keeping an unqualified IT profession ready on staff even when the computers were running properly. Just in case of emergency. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I learned anything relevant about typing, coding, or maintaining computer hardware.

    So, adding tome for computer classes doesn’t automatically mean more effective students if the teachers aren’t trained right. Moreover, I regret not learning type earlier and more effectively than I regret learning cursive. That’s because I use both skills consistently everyday.

    On a side note, when I use a computer to take notes in class rather than the old fashioned pen and paper, I have a lot more distraction and temptation to slack off from studying. That lack of discipline isn’t something that I’m proud of; but I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard.

  89. August 22, 2013

    Dimitry V.

    Greetings,

    I would like to voice my opinion on the matter.

    I write in cursive all the time, every day. I was taught to write in cursive and told that it is superior to print because it allows you to write faster yet remain more legible (something that I strongly agree with).

    Now, that being said, I am not really your “average, everyday handwriter”. You see, despite being in my mid-20′s, I am an avid fountain pen (and other stationery) collector, I actually practice my penmanship on a regular basis and I write exclusively with my favorite fountain pens.

    I attended a french school in my teenage years. Fountain pens were compulsory, as was legible handwriting and over-all neatness of your written work. A lot of my class mates hated the fact that we had to be so perfect in our penmanship but not me. I actually was quite fond of taking my time to produce a true piece of written art. Little did I know, it was the beginning of my fascination with writing paraphernalia.

    I suppose by now anyone reading this has realized that I love cursive and will defend it ’till my last breath. I truly believe that this whole “cursive is a curse” drama stems from people that are simply unable to produce a good cursive script and are therefore jealous and/or upset by that (for some unkown reason).

    The sad truth about cursive writing is that in order to have a legitimately good, legible hand you need to start young, practice diligently and have somewhat good hand-eye coordination. I have been working on my hand for years and only recently have I begun getting compliments. Note that once people start complimenting you on your cursive, it spurps you to improve it as much as you can and once you do, the amount of compliments is staggering.

    People sometimes tell me that having a perfect cursive “takes away the personality in your hand” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, as you develop and practice your cursive, you iron-in certain characteristics that in the end make your hand very much your own. Moreover, in the last year or so, I have yet to find someone that did not recognize my cursive (people that know my hand to start of with, of course).

    Anyhow, I seem to have gotten carried away in my “cursive defensive”.

    In conclusion, I’d like to stress that in my opinion, cursive is an art and like most other arts some people will be able to produce it and enjoy it and other people will simlpy never be able to.

    Kind regards,
    Dimitry

    • August 22, 2013

      Don Phillipson

      “People sometimes tell me that having a perfect cursive “takes away the personality in your hand” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
      Confirmation is offered by a page of actors’ signatures, approx. 1900, in one of my books about the Savoy Operas (D’Oyly Carte company.) Nearly every one of 40-odd has a signature that is both elegant and legible. You can tell this was part of the professional “look” of people whose image governed their future income (most of whom had risen from very ordinary origins.) When I was in school in the 1950s, a stylish signature showed you were grown up, so many of us practised and experimented until we developed one. We too knew we would be judged on our handwriting in future, and were willing to compete.

  90. August 22, 2013

    Kate Gladstone

    Because I teach handwriting (and teach the semi-joined italic, rather than conventional cursive) often I receive letters — many are handwritten — informing me that I ought to prefer cursive because (the letters inform me) writing in cursive will enable one to spell correctly, or will encourage one to do so, or will cause one to do so: any logic behind the claims is never made clear.
    I’ve noted, more than once, that many of the letters which most passionately defend that claim — including more than half of the handwritten letters on the subject (which, predictably, are all in cursive) are quite poorly spelled. Querying the writers on this matter results — always, so far — either in silence or in further angry letters. (The argument of these is summarizable as: “My poor spelling doesn’t affect the argument, because cursive produces good spelling.”)

  91. December 12, 2013

    Kate Gladstone

    It is ridiculous (and to the point of sheer odiousness) that so many supporters of cursive write as if they supposed that the only fluent which exists anywhere (or which has ever existed) is cursive as it is conventionally taught — embellished, looped, remote from printed letters in structure and appearance, and —above all — relentlessly joined (even when the join required is actually more error-prone and less rapid than a simple, quick lift of the pen: examples of error-prone requirements in conventional cursive are the joins in letter-combinations such as “gh” and “sc”).
    What is just as bad is the double-dealing which certain advocates of such cursive (here in the USA, at any rate) employ when they speak on that subject to decision-makers (legislators, school administrators, or teachers). The cursive they exalt (and work hard to see mandated) is the present-day kind with relentless joins, with letter-shapes remote from printing, and so on. This is the only writing they identify as cursive — yet when they want to defend such writing and have it mandated, they often assert: “Cursive as we know it today — the total joining, the loops, the shapes that we cursivists hold dear —has been around for at least five hundred years in its present form: it has always been our civilization’s handwriting, certainly since the first textbooks on how to write were printed, half a millennium ago.”
    The cursivist will variously credit his or her cherished handwriting (loops, total joins, and all) to the Renaissance, to the Middle Ages, or to ancient times.

    Whatever the era invoked, the only problem with the assertion is that it is false — as long as the word “cursive” means what the cursive-exalters themselves tell you that it means. Saying that the completely joined handwriting of our childhoods has been our handwriting for five hundred years is like saying that telephones and keyboards must have been in existence equally long because there were people speaking and writing at that time.

    When an exalter of cursive invokes the Renaissance, ask that person: “Would you regard as cursive a handwriting which often did not join all of the letters in a word? Particularly if those letters were often printed in form? Would that fulfill the cursive mandate you are fighting for?” The cursive exalter — in my experience — always says: “No, that is not cursive at all. Supporters of cursive oppose such writing.”
    Then remind him or her:
    “The handwriting that I have just described is the standard handwriting of the Renaissance. Renaissance handwriting models, and the individual handwritings formed on these, were semi-joined, with decidedly print-like letters throughout. The handwriting that you prefer instead — with total joining, and so on — did not begin to arise till much later, in the Baroque era. Either ‘cursive, does not mean what you are telling us it means, or you are being intentionally inaccurate by making ‘cursive’ mean one thing when you want to get people writing your way, and another thing entirely when you hare invoking the Renaissance.”

    In such discussions, it is helpful to show some examples, from textbooks and writing of the era. There are quite a few of these http://www.italic-handwriting.org .
    One can even download a handwriting textbook of the Renaissance — the first handwriting textbook ever published in our alphabet “La Operina” of 1522. This is downloadable at http://www.briem.net .

    What happens when one shows, and tells, this sort of thing to a cursivist who has just imprudently invoked the Renaissance in defense of total joining? Very often, the response is: “It doesn’t matter whether my statements are accurate or not, because my statements are necessary in order to support cursive. It is so important to support cursive — so obviously the good, true and proper thing to do — that any statement made in defense of cursive is self-evidently good, true, and proper if the result is to increase people’s faith in cursive.”
    I do not understand how that position is considered defensible, let alone why it is expressed without shame by so many of the people who say that it is theirs. Perhaps someone here can help me understand that.

  92. December 16, 2013

    w tym

    Chemia sprawdzian do pobrania gimnazjum

  93. December 17, 2013

    Daniel Stern

    OP, why teach our kids to read or write at all? All the warnings and labels down at the smelting plant have pictures.
    And why teach math? You don’t need math to flip a patty.

  94. February 4, 2014

    Bob

    The author needs to cite the sources for the “research” to which he glibly refers.

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