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How important is it for students to learn cursive writing?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on November 15, 2013

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Photo of Lane Eisenbart

“Not very important, but if they don’t know it, they can’t read it, and that would be problematic.”

Photo of Vincent Artman

“It is moderately important. There are cases where you might not have access to computers and if your handwriting is illegible you would be at a disadvantage.”

Photo of Ben Ozonoff

“I don’t think it’s that important, unless you’re pursuing a career that involves writing.”

Photo of Cody Stuber

“Pretty much not at all. It seems like it’s a lost art. It looks pretty, though.”

Comments

Sam Harris 1 year, 9 months ago

wow talk about these people not knowing how important cursive writing is, especially in regards to cognitive development. We are becoming dumbed down by technology!

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

Experts state that cursive writing stimulates coordination between the right and left brain more than printing or typing. Also a study showed that people that wrote in cursive scored slightly better on the SAT than those that printed.

Bob Smith 1 year, 9 months ago

In the future, people will be able to type 60 words a minute using only their thumbs on a keyboard the size of a playing card but will be unable to read or write cursive.

Wayne Kerr 1 year, 9 months ago

Sam, I agree, by not teaching basic reading and writing skills American kids are being dumbed down. Let's face it, most American schools seem more concerned with how well their sports teams do than how many students excel in math, science, foreign languages, or have advanced reading and writing skills. Sad.

Here's a future conversation I can imagine happening between a grandmother and her nephew.

Grandmother, "Didn't you get my note?" Kid, "Yeah, I saw it, but I wasn't sure what it said, it was written in some weird language or foreign font I've never seen before. If it was so important, why didn't you just text me?"

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

I find it odd people are against learning cursive. From grade school through high school kids are required to learn a variety of subjects in order to have a well rounded education. The argument being we don't know what you will be as an adult so we need to teach you a wide variety so you have a good fund of knowledge about the basics. It doesn't always turn out that way but that is the concept. In college we were repeatedly told we had to take courses outside our major in order to have a well rounded education. The argument being even if that humanities course didn't directly factor into a chemistry degree, it would help you be a better person. Learning how to write in a manner other than block letters like a second grader can't be considered a waste of time. Just because calculators are common doesn't mean children shouldn't learn how to do math with a pencil and paper either. Maybe people don't think their children need a well rounded education any more.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

The current educational system struggles to teach how to speak, read and write English in K-12. How about they master that before they try additional languages . I am glad to see you compare writing ability to chicken plucking.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

Well since the educational system is doing such a bang up job with English why not teach another language. That way the students won't be able to read, write and speak correctly in multiple languages.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

I cannot imagine any professional writer sitting down and writing some six hundred pages by hand.

To me doing all my writing on a computer just makes sense and it is good for the environment, far less messy. If you want to change something you just highlight it and cut it out, or highlight, copy and paste something to a new location. No pieces of crumpled paper on the floor, no trying to decypher bad handwriting or reading paragraphs followed by scratched out lines.

I make my shopping lists on the notepad on my phone and use the calculator to make sure I am staying within the budget.

Teaching cursive writing? Fergitaboutit!

Julie Craig 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, if you can't read it, you'll have to have a translator to read some of our historic documents or letters. I for one, think it's still important for that reason and to also have a real "signature" on documents. It doesn't take long to study and learn cursive.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

Julie, no one is going to be reading the historic documents as written. They are now on the Internet along with writers like Thomas Paine and you can read the full text for free. You can even read the entire text of the AFC online.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

If you ever have the opportunity to see the real documents in Washington, you will understand how sad a day that will be when no one reads the actual documents. They may be online but it in no manner provides the whole experience of reading the actual document and signatures. If for no other reason than that cursive should be continued to be taught.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

I would love to be able to visit Washington and see the original documents but doubt that I will be able to do so. We do need to keep in mind that cursive has changed since that time and also the spelling of certain words. Language, spoken as well as written is organic not static.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

From Babelfish:
Successful Translation!
Please find your translated text below:
Kurrant (German)
Kurrant (English)
In other words, there is no German word "Kurrant" that Babelfish can find in the German language.

I tend to think you are referring to the old Germanic text that fell out of favor in the 1940s. It was certainly not a cursive writing, it was a text font. I was very fortunate to have all of the German text in my first German book written in the old style text, so I have no problem reading it. But, no one ever wrote in that font, it would be simply too difficult to write using it.

Duane Nevins 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't think they should be learning cursive writing. They should obstain from using swear words altogether!

John Spencer 1 year, 9 months ago

So people will print their signatures in the future? Sad.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure! They will do it by writing this: X

But, anyone that does that will need to have a witness, of course.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

When was the last time you saw a signature you could read?

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

My mother's signature is perfectly legible every time.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure. Just convince the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President of your wonderful new idea for authorization, whatever it is. I'm sure they'll love changing a tradition that is many thousands of years old.

But it won't work for international treaties, that's for sure.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

It seems that the subject of cursive writing will never die. This is a repeat of a comment I made on this site on November 12, 2012:

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.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Also, some years ago I became acquainted with a Jewish rabbi who was in possession of a large number of letters that had been written by his grandfather, who I believe lived in South Africa at the time. But, instead of being written in plain printed Hebrew, they were written in cursive Yiddish, and he couldn't read even printed Yiddish, and forget cursive Yiddish!

He wanted to have them translated, but he could not find anyone that could do that. In some cases, Yiddish is written with alliterated English letters, although it is properly written using only the 22 characters of the Hebrew alphabet, which look nothing at all like the characters of the English alphabet. There are only 22 characters in Hebrew, partly because that language has no vowels in its alphabet. But, spoken Hebrew certainly does use vowels.

And to top that off, cursive Hebrew or Yiddish looks nothing like the 22 printed characters of the Hebrew alphabet either, and it is written from right to left, as Arabic is also. And, cursive Hebrew letters look very much like regular Arabic characters.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Not back in time, just over the pond to the UK, it's still required. And, there are many reasons to learn cursive. Just to name a couple, there may not be electronic devices handy, or you might want to read your grandparent's letters.

Also, in case of all out war, the EMPs will destroy almost all electronic devices. Then, no one will be able to write anything at all, except with a tedious printing of the characters. Even that would be difficult without practice.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

Why be against a skill that is still used to define societies. The ability to write one's language is part of determining literacy. I prefer not to define future generations by printing like a small child. If you do, Barbara, that is your right.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

You haven't offered any real reason against cursive other than you personally don't like it. You have not provided any authoritative studies to support your argument against cursive. You have your bias showing just like everyone else. So your reasons against cursive are no better than the arguments for it.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

So the experts that state cursive writing helps teach coordination between the right and left brain more than printing or typing are wrong. Where is your evidence the experts are wrong? Please report something other than your opinion. What about the study that showed slightly higher SAT scores for those that wrote cursive compared to printing? Is that study wrong as well? Where is your evidence? There are studies and reports by experts to show some advantages of cursive over printing. If you want to dismiss it that will require authoritative evidence on your part not just your opinion.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

You are the one that stated "experts" were using fallacies in their reports without specifying any specific expert or report. You acknowledge the SAT finding yet dismiss it without fact. You blame others for bias in grading a test and for bias in their opinions yet you state you have no bias in your opinions. What a laugh. You attempt to bully people by demanding they provide information yet when the same is asked of you, you ignore it. Nice of you to play by two sets of rules.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

You tell us how the "experts" are wrong. You expect me to provide authoritative support for my side of the argument yet when I ask you to do the same you ignore it. You point out my bias which I am sure I have yet when pointed out you have a bias you dismiss the idea quickly. You dismiss everyone else's arguments as irrational yet you claim your argument is the only one that is rational. It must be nice that you and you alone always have all the right answers and even the "experts" are wrong. Sounds self righteous.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

You were the one that stated"experts" were using fallacies in their opinions. You are the one that started the attacks by telling people their opinions were irrational. So you may go ad hominem yourself.

Pius Waldman 1 year, 9 months ago

I am a retired teacher mainly in the 5th to 8th grade. One summer I went to Greeley Colorado and as part of a Language Arts class was introduced to teaching cursive writing. I started school in a one room for all grades 1-8. We were taught cursive even in the early grades and I can't remember even doing manuscript. Even though there are computers to write I would encourage teaching cursive either the 3rd grade or 4th grade. Name signatures by some are intended to be unreadable. As for me learn to write cursive. OK

Addie Line 1 year, 9 months ago

My kids learned cursive but schools seem more concerned with them being good at typing, a skill they will actually need day to day, as we transition more and more to a more computer based society. Think of things like all electronic medical records...and when was the last time you submitted a college paper in handwriting? It's a skill they should learn but typing is more relevant.

Rae Hudspeth 1 year, 9 months ago

Why teach children how to color inside the lines, or draw, sing or play music? Cursive writing may not be "necessary" but it is a beautiful art to master, and there's no reason why a lack of mastery should be a reason to not teach an art.

Besides, how will those new doctors ever be able to write an illegible prescription without having at least the fundamentals of writing, lol. There are some drugs that still require a handwritten Rx.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

Correct, they will stop at printing. The students will ultimately have the handwriting skills of a first grader. There is something to cheer about.

John Graham 1 year, 9 months ago

What an achievement for the college student, to have handwriting skills only marginally better than a first grader. At least their poor handwriting skills will match their spelling skills. Why teach spelling when spell check is on all devices? While we are at it why bother to teach reading? Let everyone use books on tape. Same argument. You win Barbara.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh, Rae, you just pushed one of my buttons. I refused to buy my daughter a coloring book when she was little because the last thing I wanted was for her to learn to color within the lines. Instead I bought her an easel and art supplies and had her draw her own lines.

Should originality, creativity and individualism be taught in the schools? Absolutely!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Computers and like instruments are wonderful with electricity at our disposal. Suppose it were not? Batteries become scarce?

What schools are not demonstrating cursive writing? Our children have learned cursive which includes our 17 year old also the youngest.

Printing is fine but a tad slower.

I say keep cursive and teach second or third languages at the same time cursive instruction begins.

Why was this question posed on the street? What's up?

Andreas Moeller 1 year, 9 months ago

Ron Holzwarth, try looking up deutsche schrift on wikipedia and have it translated to "German cursive" . Its also called Kurrent or Sütterlin and was a type of cursive writing, with similar version used in Scandinavian countries and in Austria. While abandoning that helped unify reading/writing with other European and non-European languages I find it hard to believe that not teaching cursive writing and reading at all is a step in the right direction.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

It is gorgeous, thank you Andreas for telling us about it. Okay you told Ron but now that I have looked into it I find this fasinating.

It is gorgeous, thank you Andreas for telling us about it. Okay you told Ron but now that I have looked into it I find this fasinating. by Frankie8

Bob Smith 1 year, 9 months ago

Bickering is alive and well on this award-winning website.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Yup, Bob, you're right. I learned cursive in kindergarten, and I certainly could not have learned a second language nearly as quickly, that's for sure, as one commenter suggested.

As an aside, I have an observation. My grandparents, and the older members of the family, spoke Plattdeutsch, and not Hochdeutsch. In other words, they spoke a very old German dialect that was spoken in parts of what is now eastern and southern Germany long ago, where my family had lived until about 1820, before leaving for Russia. Sometimes those two dialects of German are called "Low German" and "High German".

(Germany did not become a unified nation until the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war of 1879. Prior to that, it had been a number of principalities.)

My grandmother told me to never learn the German they spoke, and the whole family refused to teach any of it to me. "Learn German they way they teach it in school. That's what the Bible is written in, not the way we talk," she told me a few times.

So I never learned Plattdeutsch, the language of my ancestors. Only recently has there been a revival of interest in the various German dialects, of which Plattdeutsch is the most prominent example.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

"I learned cursive in kindergarten, and I certainly could not have learned a second language nearly as quickly, that's for sure, as one commenter suggested."

How do you know that?

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

After watching Walking Dead last night I am thinking that in the event this happens I should grab a bunch of journals and pens and start writing about what is happening so that later on people will know.

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