Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools
Lauren Sanchez teaches cursive writing to third graders at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.
July 8th, 2011
09:34 PM ET

Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools

Handwriting experts and educators worry that Indiana's choice to stop teaching cursive in schools could negatively affect a child's ability to learn.

The Indiana Department of Education joined 39 other states in adopting the Common Core curriculum, an initiative to phase out cursive writing in classrooms in favor of providing students more time to hone digital skills.

But some believe the move could adversely affect children.

"The fluidity of cursive allows, I think, for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and such and through literature," said Paul Sullivan, principal of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.

"I think there’s a firmer connection of wiring between the brain’s processes of learning these skills and the actual practice of writing."

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Filed under: Education • Indiana
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  1. SAM

    I was once told in grade school that "true ladies always write in cursive." While I see the flaws in this statement, I have always kept it in the back of my mind. I've consistently written in cursive since high school and was always complimented on my handwriting by teachers and other students.

    We shouldn't forget that handwriting says a lot about a person– even in the digital age. Unique styles of writing speak volumes about a person's capability for creative thought. I mean, remember how all the blonde bimbos in high school all wrote alike in the same "bubble" print?

    Seriously, Indiana. Get ready for bubble letters with cutesy hearts and priceless spelling errors. Way to go...

    August 3, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Well said. I recall trying to emulate the bubble print of my peers, only to realize it reminded me of princess tea parties and stuffed animals. I used to have to hide my laughter whenever I would see them attempt to turn in an assignment; the look on my teacher's face was always priceless. Too bad it won't be humorous anymore.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sophie

    Well, cursive writing isn’t really in use nowadays, is it?

    Honestly, while I was forced to learn it back in elementary school, I never used it in middle or high school—never mind the idea of using cursive writing in college! Actually, my high school was one of the first to provide every student with laptops (an iBook, actually) they could take home. Our essays, and most of our “typical” homework assignments were typed. In college, almost 100% of our work had to be typed. Excepting math homework, tests and exams, of course.
    Does anyone actually use cursive except to make a “fancier” signature anymore? Everything in the working world has to be either written legibly in print, or computer-generated. On the other hand, would I write someone a polite thank-you note in print? Probably not. It’s more likely I would print one out, and if it had to be a truly personal message, try to write in cursive. (But how many people actually write thank you notes in this day and age?)

    Cursive is really the art of a bygone era, like calligraphy.

    What is the point of forcing third-grades to learn to write in cursive? It certainly won’t make their writing more legible. Supposedly, learning to write in cursive, (before print, mind you) makes for better handwriting, and has several other benefits.. I haven’t found any extensive scientific studies supporting (or denying) the idea that cursive writing allows “for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and such and through literature.” (Yes, I looked.) Although I did find that the question of whether teaching cursive versus print (so-called “manuscript writing”), and during which grade, was already in debate in 1944.. There are arguments stating that writers that chose print had “superiority in speed, accuracy, and legibility.” And, of course, arguments to the contrary.

    What do I say? Nobody writes in cursive anymore, so why bother forcing kids to learn it? Want to write in cursive? Learn it on your own time. As for the rest of the modern world, we’ll be typing.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Senior Citizen

      I absolutely agree: I am of a generation where my left-handed cursive was penalized and brought down my grade through 6th grade. I learned typing and used it everywhere except examinations thereafter. Cursive is as relevant today as the beautiful print of medieval manuscripts, and can be learned as an art by those who wish. It is no longer a primary means of communication. As for its mastery having any necessary connection to intelligence or school learning, this is once again a typical conservative justification by teachers who want to stick to the old instead of embracing the new!

      August 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sonfoacop

    Why teach math when we have calculators? Why teach spelling/english when we have dictionaries and such? So on and so on. A sad commentary on our society today. Hey, we should stop teaching everything and just teach good, christian values and we will all be the better off. (yes, that was sarcasm)

    August 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      You're really good at this so-called sarcasm thing.
      But why even communicate with each other at all? Early civilization had it all wrong. We only need ourselves to survive, so we should prepare ourselves to become acquainted with hard, back-breaking labor and a life of loneliness. Screw cursive.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Absol

      Calculators can't do advanced math and they're not always available.
      Dictionaries can't solve improper grammar and they're not always available.

      As such, your argument has nothing to do with cursive.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lindsay

    As a 25 year old female, I would much rather write in cursive than print. When asked in forms to print something (such as name, etc), I always find myself erasing the cursive version of what is asked. I love cursive writing- it is aesthetically appealing and in my opinion, easier to use. Unfortunately, typing is becoming the norm. I am a college student, and all of my papers must be typed. However, I hand write as much as possible. I have a young daughter, and I will be making sure that she learns to write in cursive of it isn't taught in school.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gwen Hester

    I certainly hope this country and this civilization is not ready to "shoot itself in the foot" because of some ill-planned, ill-thought out" decisions that will hurt us in the future.

    As an amateur genealogist, I recently paid a visit to an Alabama courthouse and uncovered some records that are 160 to 175 years old. These records currently sit on dusty shelves in a dark room, and they have not been microfilmed or duplicated in any manner.

    Of course, these records were written using cursive handwriting, and I thought what tragedy it would be if future generations could not read this information. We run the risk of losing part of our history (a lot of hidden history) and our heritage if we lose the knowledge of how to read cursive writing and how to write cursively.

    I have to ask myself, "what is the real motive behind some of these states proposing these decisions?"

    August 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      So if they want people to stop voicing their opinions, all they have to do is kill the electricity for a while :)

      August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Absol

      The real motive is that cursive is a waste of time.
      Stopping the forced teaching of cursive won't mean that every human on the planet will eventually forget for to read/write the cipher.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JA

    The last time I wrote more than a couple sentences in cursive was a few months ago for the GMAT when I had to write a paragraph of understanding in cursive (it's a requirement while filling out the paperwork just before starting the test). The last time before that? Fifth grade.

    On another note, cursive writing is not friendly to left-handers. As a left-handed writer, I'm pretty much convinced that learning cursive is where my "hook-hand" while writing came from; when printing, I almost never hook my hand unless I've been writing for awhile and my wrist is fatigued. When cursive writing, I have to hook my hand just to properly follow the stroke pattern and not write lines at a very skewed angle.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cynthia

    There is this thing called the kinesthetic response – the act of writing fires neurons to the brain, helping the writer remember spelling, word retrieval, grammar...cursive is also faster than printing, and reversals are less likely to occur – d for b, etc.
    To he;p lefy handers, turn your paper to the right on a slant, rather than the traditional left. It helps the "hook".

    No one can read cursive anymore – what a loss!

    August 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      I totaly agree and what a shame. I have 5th graders and decided to teach them cursive on my own! I believe that is a tool that need to be sucessful in life.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Shalomit

    In 1970 my now ex but my groom then was in the Army. We got sent to Germany, and we did not speak the language. In our first apartment we had a lovely woman upstairs we called our German grandmother. I learned some German. and she some English by passing a dicrionary back and forth. One day I was going out, and she asked where I was going. I told her the market on the corner. There were some chairs in the entry hall, and she pushed me into a chiar and told me to wait. In about 5 minutes she came back w/ a lovely young girl who curtseyed! She informed me, in almost perfect, barely accented English that she was Frau Keller's granddaughter and her grandmother wanted her to help me iin the market. I was amazed. Everything I picked up she named, and when necessary, explained what was in the package. She'd just finished her FIRST YEAR of English. I took French for 3 years, and all I kept thinking was god help the Frenchman who needed my help in the grocery. He'd starve. When Petra got more usd to me and stopped blushing every time I asked her a question, I asked how she knew English so well after one year. She said from the minute they entered a foreign language class – any language – they were not allowed to spek except in the language they were there to learn. I.e., if a kid had to use the loo, s/he had to ask to be excused IN ENGLISH. It sounded cruel to me, but it obviously worked. She was 12 years old, and as cute as a button, obviously she was also a smart girl.

    In this country, when I went to school we learned much of what we set out to learn or took the class again in the summer; but we certainly do not have test scores as kids do in so many countries. Now I find out we're phasing out basic arithmetic and cursive writing w/ more time given to learning better computer skills. There are so many holes in the current scheduling that I am afraid of what will happen when we close schools altoghther. I am reasonably sure Christie had 'governor' by his name on my ballot; once elected, however, he somehow seems to have become a dictator and I've seen no evidence of the Democrats who have majorities in both houses, yet within a couple of weeks he took $200 million from the school funds and took 75,000 indigent kids off kid-care so they have no health insurance. And as far as the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana law signed into law by Corzine on his way out. Yet this program keeps getting pushed back due to logistics. Many of us are suffering more than we have to; it seems that Christie has the power of a dictator, and this law, which became effective in October of '10 is still being pushed by logistics. Finally, back to the schools. My son went to k-garten in TX, and there was a student teacher I finally could not keep from reporting to the principal. The student teacher's grammar was so bad I honestly never knew what she was saying.

    I can't imagine what the future holds in a couple of generations from now, or if there will still be schools. Added to the fright for the future are the things children are not learning at this point in time, and one of, if not the main, problem seems to be that children are simply not being taught how to think for themselves or anything resembling common sense. Two things give me pause whenever either of these situations occurs. The first is a constant. Go into the grocery w/ a total of $4.03. The customer gives the checker a five dollar bill and that asks the kid to wait a moment, she has the 3 cents. She hands this kid 3 cents, but he's already put in $4.03 total and the $5 the customer service initially gave him. His computer says to give her 97 cents, and when she tries to explain that if the checker takes the 3 pennies, he can then give her back a dollar and the bottom line will be the same. Yet many say there's no point in teaching arithmetic; the kids have computers, calculators. Obviously they need the simple arithmetic.

    The other example scared me deeply. I was somewhere where a teen-aged girl was asking me questions and filling in a form. First I had to tell her the meaning of the questions she was asking, and finally, she came to my birthdate. I gave her the month and date using the last two numbers of the year I was born. The child started to write, then stopped and asked me if that was 19 # or a 2000 #, I said 2000 and she wrote it down. Don't think in my wildest dreams I could pass for a teen ager, but I would have been a teen based on the 2000. WE NEED HELP BEFORE THE ENTIRE COUNTRY IS RUN BY IGNORANT AND UNTAUGHT LEADERS.

    August 12, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. alan solomon md

    Senior citizen......Have a grandchild with "adhd"...have watched him with his dysfunctionality...was awakened literally and figuratively to the possibility that the increasing and growing incidence of "adhd" reported, may be related to a growing deficiency in eye hand coordination/concentration, training...Tracking the incidence of "adhd" (in societies and school systems), where (in early childhood settings) "cursive" is not valued or taught might be a worthwhile study ...there may be a specific relationship with the above and the developmental wiring of the brain, ...This is not to say that "adhd" is caused by a deficiency of eye/hand coordination, but that children with the potential for the development of dysfunctional forms of "adhd" can be helped by the eye hand "cursive" training given in early childhood before distructive patterns develop... Abandoning "cursive" may have been a grievous error.

    November 4, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
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    April 2, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. john

    it is not needed. Schools worldwide teach the roman language without cursive, especially in Asia. No loss to them but my writing tends to slant upward and looks flowery due to writing in cursive for years on end. Let it go.

    September 15, 2012 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sandy

    They stopped that yrs ago in Reading,P.A.My son is in 9th and they didn't teach him that So it's up to us to teach the what the schools don't.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Eric Craig

    Got a question- How will people sign checks, contracts, licences, etc in the future? Print? anybody can print their name to forge it then. If a kid (18+) goes to sign something at a bank and can only print, will they let him? seems like we'll run into more legal troubles and ID fraud if we dont at least teach kids how to sign their own names.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dave Myers

    Let the poorly educated continue to take the easier route. The future leaders will certainly need to know cursive writing. When you pen a letter.... Not digital email... But actually Hand Write a letter, it certainly is expected to write in cursive. If you're too lazy to neatly write a letter, you are too lazy to be paid attention to. At this rate, all I have to do is wait another 10-15 years and Cursive will be like a secret code. Teach your children and the 'un-educated' young adults will gladly pay your children to write a letter for them, when their keyboard stops working.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
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