Archive for Monday, November 12, 2012

Kansas surveys districts about cursive handwriting

November 12, 2012


— The Kansas Department of Education is asking school districts how extensively they're teaching cursive handwriting.

Results of a survey will be presented to the state Board of Education at a meeting this week in Topeka.

Schools around the country are spending less time on handwriting instruction as students do more of their work on computers. Experts say students accustomed to writing on computers at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of spending hours practicing handwriting.

But the National Association of State Boards of Education wrote in a September policy update that there are benefits. The association says handwriting is a basic skill that can help students in reading, writing, language use and critical thinking.


someguy 5 years, 5 months ago

Cursive is still an important skill. I regularly send handwritten letters to my friends that live in the 1920's.

Beth Bird 5 years, 5 months ago

What a waste of time and resources! Cursive is not a relevant skill in today's market. Why don't we see how many districts still teach dictation using typewriters?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

Dictation is almost always done with shorthand, which is later typed.

LadyJ 5 years, 5 months ago

Do they still teach shorthand? Or is it all text abbreviations now?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes. Google shorthand school

And, court reporting school

kernal 5 years, 5 months ago

What a waste of time...! Kind of like reading for some.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

First off, way to disrespect the military. Secondly, I've got a great career, and I can count the number of times my ability to read cursive had an impact on my career on zero hands.

GYSGTUSMC 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the "complement", KansasLiberal. I was taught (and still use) cursive, and I am apparently one of your "dead-enders" who joined the Marine Corps shortly after high school and served my county for 20 years. I then went on to a quite successful civilian career where I advanced to, and served, at an executive-level position for over 10 years. Those who know me would hardly describe me as a "dead-ender". BTW, I also tend to be liberal.

Steve Mechels 5 years, 5 months ago

Nice, right after Veteran's Day too. Comments like those give liberals a bad name.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 5 months ago

I find little to agree with "liberals" generally, but in this case it makes excellent sense. Also, people still need to know how to sign their name, and that is in cursive.

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

"The association says handwriting is a basic skill that can help students in reading, writing, language use and critical thinking." I completely agree.

My nephew is 19 and without the prompting from a computer to correct his spelling and grammar is a horrible writer. Cursive requires you think and compose a sentence in your head before you commit it to paper.

I learned publication design and layout long before software for it existed. I use it now, but the years of doing it manually made me a much better designer because I had to think through the entire piece before I started.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

I learned a somewhat analogous skill years ago, in the very early 1980s. I learned to draw electronic printed circuit boards manually. Upon seeing my work, many people were shocked that they were looking at a hand drawn PC board, and then further stunned when I informed them that I could draw a board with 10 - 15 ICs and associated passives error free overnight. For those who are not familiar with electronic design, it generally took a highly skilled designer about a week to finish a design job like that, and the payment expected was something like $1,000. (That was real money in the 1980s, not so much today.)

I had the perfect skill set to do it manually, in that I thoroughly understood the functions of each integrated circuit, an incredibly high level of visual imagery, a steady hand, and I'm OCD enough to find virtually all my errors.

I just loved starting on a job at about 6 PM, and between 8 and 9 AM the next morning, submitting the completed job and presenting an invoice for hundreds of dollars for my overnight work. Of course, in the 1980s, that was quite a lot of money.

Today there are many computer programs that can do the same thing, more or less, and they are so simple to use that just about anyone with any kind of graphic skills can draw a circuit board.

I have an advanced program that I use occasionally, I don't have a choice, because the supplies required to draw circuit boards by hand are not available anymore.

But you know? With that $10,000 computer program, I can't draw a circuit board any faster than I used to be able to do by hand. But, it's nice to be able to specify locations a the 0.001 inch level, by hand I never could get a tolerance any closer than 0.05 inches or so.

If only I had started in about 1965, I would be very wealthy today, because the skill set to draw PC boards by hand is apparently very, very rare. Today with a computer, it's child's play.

And so, just in case anyone needs a custom circuit board,,,

David Klamet 5 years, 5 months ago

I was around in those days, and I agree with every word you've said, but you have to admit that boards today have components with hundreds of pins, the manuals for the processors are thousands of pages long. The boards now have so many layers, so many traces....

I like tech, but that doesn't mean I think everything new is good.

I think cursive is a skill that should not die. There are lots of things kids are taught in school that they will never remember or use.

I wonder what note taking in school is like now if there is a clatter of typing on a hundred keyboards. Or are notes themselves a relic of the past?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

E, E flat, E, E flat, E, B, D, C, A, C, E, A, B, E

Yes, we still use notes!

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Learning to write in cursive did not make me a better writer, nor did it make me a better speller. Having access to spelling correctors and writing tools made me both a better writer and a better speller.

I'll concede that press type makes you better at layout, but they actually still start with that in graphic design classes today.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

A friend of mine's mother was a UK bride, and after they were married, her father did some graduate studies in London for a period of time. After my friend moved from the US and before she enrolled in school at about the 4th or 5th grade, she had to undergo testing to determine her grade level.

She did fine in every subject except one. Cursive handwriting.

So, she was flunked for one entire year, and studied how to write neatly and properly, using pen or pencil on paper, for hours on end.

Today she is in her 50s, and is frequently complimented on her beautiful and perfectly legible handwriting skills. To say the very least, she was not pleased to be flunked for an entire year in elementary school over that, but today, she does not regret it in the least.

And, in case any of you have ever wondered why letters you might receive from the UK are so beautifully written, now you know why.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 5 months ago

My friend, Gus, was told to practice his cursive, so he let loose with a blue streak that woulda made a ball coach blush. It seems he misinterpreted the definition.

Like G_B sez, learning cursive will teach you more than just how to place words on paper.

Betty Bartholomew 5 years, 5 months ago

Learning to write is important - I hand write a ton of notes because a piece of paper and pen are usually at hand - and learning to write legibly is important, but I've never understood the be-all, end-all importance placed on cursive, to the point where not emphasizing it puts people in a penmanship panic. Yes, it looks nice and pretty, but I've seen very nice printing, too. And while being able to print and write cursive allows you to personalize your writing and signature, I'd far rather somebody have legible printing than illegible cursive.

I do remember when I was learning it that it was touted as being faster than printing since the letters flow together and you don't have to lift the pen as often, but in this type-heavy age, I'm not sure that's as much of an advantage as it once was.

I also remember it being fielded as the "grown-up" method of handwriting, but considering my dad was a grown-up and he usually printed, I never really bought that argument.

All-in-all, I think cursive has its place in improving aesthetics, but if somebody can't do it or prefers not to do it, I don't see the big deal.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

Did you ever have to take notes in class with a very fast talking instructor?

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

I used math symbols for shortcuts. Also, it is not necessary to transcribe the lecture, only to make notes of things deemed important. I don't know about you, but if I'm writing, I'm not able to also listen, so whatever I write down better be worth missing the next set of phrases for. I also record lectures, just in case I feel that I really missed something and need to review it.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

You are under the impression that students never take notes in class?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

If they're allowed, and the batteries aren't dead.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 5 months ago

It's true. At KU, each professor determines if laptops will be allowed in their class. My English 101 professor would not allow laptops during class time. We had to handwrite all of our in-class assignments, but we typed papers at home. It's also easier to handwrite notes for classes like math where you're not just working with text and maybe a few pictures. I have yet to figure out how to type out math problems and have them be recognizable.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 5 months ago

No kidding. Using your body parts to complete basic tasks went out with the Wells-Fargo wagon and stereoscopes!

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

My college age nephew prints everything including his "signature." I have great handwriting but when I wrote a card for his high school graduation I had to read it to him because he couldn't figure it out. The thank you note I received a few weeks later looked like it was written by a 4th grade student.

Being able to write isn't "old fashioned." I type (or "keyboard") 90 words a minute but I can write at almost the same speed and I remember the details better because I can add notations impossible with a laptop.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

I haven't seen him for a few years, but a friend of mine graduated from K.U. with a very, very high G.P.A., I don't remember what it was. But, it wasn't a degree that would lead to a job, so he made the decision to go to law school here at K.U.

He worked and worked at it, but the work that used to result in As now only resulted in Cs. There was a girl that sat near enough for him to notice that she was always getting As on her tests, even though she didn't strike him as being particularly brilliant. So one day, he asked her how she was managing to do so well on the law school tests, and obviously, grades.

Her answer? "I write down everything the instructor says."

In law school, lecture material is very important, and you're not going to do very well if all you ever study is the book, I guess.

"How can you write down everything he says?" my friend asked, quite shocked that something like that could even be possible. He tried and tried and could only get a tiny fraction of it written down!

"Oh, I got accepted to law school, but it didn't start for a while, so I went to secretarial school and took just the shorthand classes."

And for her, K.U. law school was very easy. Apparently all she had to do was reread what the instructor had said in class a few times, and she got all As with no further effort.

bevy 5 years, 5 months ago

You may not realize this, but when my grandparents were in school, the ONLY handwriting they taught was cursive. When I was in school (70s) we learned printing first, and then cursive. My kids learned something in the mid-90s called Denealian script - which was basically a disconnected form of cursive.

Nowadays? All my kids can read cursive but claim to have a little trouble with it. My own handwriting, because I type all day long, is getting worse and worse, and more difficult. I think I'm losing muscle memory. In my previous life i was an office manager and could transcribe meetings WITHOUT shorthand in cursive.

I think as long as a legal signature is required on a document, the kids should learn cursive. But they shouldn't have to be graded on it (as I was, and it blew my grade card in 4th grade!)

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh D'Nealian... I learned that in 1st grade and promptly forgot it that summer. I did better learning cursive in 2nd and 3rd grade. Still use it as the basis for my signature and occasionally when writing blue book essays and thank-you notes. My grandparents like to know that I can write in cursive. I did some volunteering at one of the elementary schools here in town last year. Whatever form of cursive they teach here is pretty different from what I learned in Pennsylvania in the late 90s. I couldn't recognize T or F. This is the alphabet I was taught:

Funnily enough, one of the girls in the class had a broken arm. I dictated her spelling test in the back of the classroom, and she got upset with me because I don't connect my a's in print anymore. Habits of sped-up printing to take notes with.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 5 months ago

What is the reason that you only hire contract workers now, as opposed to regular employees?

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 5 months ago

Because he doesn't have to pay them benefits, because they are not part of head count, and because contractors come out of the operating budget, not the payroll budget

Or he could be calling them contractors just to get around FLSA requirements.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

It's difficult for me to think of any skill as useless, as some of the prior posters have implied. I'm reminded somewhat of my first day of German class, in 1968. The class began with the instructor, Mr. James Bono, later Dr. Bono (doctorate in German from K.U.), holding up the book we were to use, and apologizing for it.

He said something like this: "I can hardly believe they gave me this old book to teach you with, but I have no choice but to use it because this is all we have. The German is all written in the Old German Script, and that has almost never been in use since before World War II. You will just have to get used to it, the letters are nothing like the ordinary letters used today. You will have to learn a whole new set of letters."

"But I will tell you this: Since you are going to be learning German in Old German Script, you will have an advantage if you ever try to read an older manuscript, because it used to be that everything was printed in this script. It is very difficult to learn to read it after you already know German."

And so, for my first year of German, I learned everything in Old German Script. It looks very ordinary to me, but for someone that has never seen it, it's very difficult and cumbersome to read, even if you know German very well.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 5 months ago

I can barely read my own (cursive) writing and I doubt that anyone else can. I remember standing in front of the class in 6th grade (with my nose in a circle drawn on the chalk board by a wicked nun) because, in three tries, I couldn't meet Sister Mary Beatrice's standards for writing out my spelling test in the proper style. My spelling was perfect but my cursive thucked big thyme. Once I had decided to create my own style of writing (a cursive/printing/pictogram mix), I enjoyed writing. I still treasure my hand's artistic merit to this day and prefer to take notes in "cursive". I don't really expect or want anyone else to be able to read my notes, unless they care to do so. I can make it legible, if necessary. I have to say I don't care if kids learn to write cursive (leave it for the cool), but scribbling with the intent of communicating should not die on the walls of caves or at the demise of paper. It is an expression beyond "0"s and "1"s. It has the promise of living in the realm of art. ...and also in the realm of BS. Thank you very much for "listening"!-D

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

I learned to draft and can write beautifully. Most of the time I scribble. The people that need to know what it says can read it.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 5 months ago

My grandmother taught me cursive handwriting using the Palmer method. Hours and hours of making perfectly connected circles on the blackboard and then perfect upper and lower case letters. As a result I have very nice handwriting and it very much resembles my mother's who was taught by the same method. Unfortunately, though, I haven't hand-written anything in about 6 or 7 years, and don't intend to if I can help it. When we have the technology, we should certainly use it. I think there are many more important things kids can be learning in school as long as they have a form of handwriting that is legible. Many job applications are on line now and soon all will be.

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

Block letters are legible but they look pretty stupid when signing a contract or a bank loan. I are a grade schule gradeuete.

Centerville 5 years, 5 months ago

Ask a 13-year-old to address an envelope. There are lots of them who can't and who hardly know what one is. Being able to write legibly may seem laughably old-fashioned, but all these kids will be hired, or not, by people who know how. And, we all find it insulting that, after we've poured 75% of our tax money into K-12, no one is able to read these kids' writing.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

You are getting two concepts confused: ability to write in cursive and ability to write legibly. They're two different things.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 5 months ago

Learning cursive is important for historical purposes. Even running across letters from ancestors can make learning cursive worth it so that you are able to read and decipher.

mac 5 years, 5 months ago

This is eye opening! I would have no idea that some youth of today could not read or write cursive.

akt2 5 years, 5 months ago

As I was reading this I noticed a list of music that my 16 year old wrote last night. She is a junior. It is completely legible and is very neat. It appears that she combines cursive and print. That is how I write also. A comment was made to me this past weekend. I had written FX for fracture. A young nurse asked me what it said. I had written a capitol cursive F. That was then the conversation. "Oh, that is cursive. I haven't written cursive in years."

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years, 5 months ago

I forgot how to write cursive long ago and dont ask me to read something in cursive... Teaching it and learning it is a waste of time... I prefer regular written letters

gatekeeper 5 years, 5 months ago

Handwriting (both print and cursive) need to be taught. At my work, I receive many work orders with hand written info and it's disgusting to see how grown adults can barely write. My husband deals with loan applications at a bank and receives many every month that look like a small child tried to fill out the form. My mom taught me to write beautifully in cursive and I still receive compliments today because it is very legible and pleasant to read. It's a lost art that needs to be brought back. When you can't hand write something legible, it makes you look stupid, no matter how smart you really are.

We also need to really emphasize spelling and grammer too. Everyone relies on computers to fix their errors now and when they do try to write something without a computer, many can't form a gramatically correct sentence or spell common words correctly. We rely on technology way too much and don't teach our children the basics. I highly doubt most kids today could pass the exams given 100 years ago.

Kat Christian 5 years, 5 months ago

Handwriting is still important to a child's learning. My child doesn't do his work on computer expect to study it, but I make him write everything out. It's bad enough they've dumb-down our educational system as it is. Stop chopping off more learning.

Centerville 5 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry if your child can't write legibly. Just make sure she undertands that because of her laziness, she will probably be passed over for a lot of things. And wish her luck in the 'Julia' corral.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

Mathematics curricula has the same challenges. Someone decides a skill is not important and deemphasizes it. Twenty years later, it becomes crucial. I.e., number bases in computer science.

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

Sort of like the school board pushing to close or consolidate grade schools because they claimed the student count was shrinking. Now the very schools they were wanting to close are projected to have the largest increase enrollment in the entire district over the next two years. Dumb and dumber.

Kate Gladstone 5 years, 5 months ago

Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter? Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They 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.) When following the rules doesn’t work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.) Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it. (In other words, we could simply teach kids to read old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to write that way too ... not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing well.)

Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)


/1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 1998: on-line at


/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. DEVELOPMENT OF HANDWRITING SPEED AND LEGIBILITY IN GRADES 1-9. 1998: on-line at

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

Yours for better letters,

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

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