LATEST NEWS:
Although I may be a tech-savvy Gen Xer, I do remember life before the Internet. Times were better. Kids were physically active and played outside. Nowadays, all kids seem to play is Angry Birds on their iPhones.

The collapse of cursive in curriculum

Although I may be a tech-savvy Gen Xer, I do remember life before the Internet. Times were better. Kids were physically active and played outside. Nowadays, all kids seem to play is Angry Birds on their iPhones.

Believe it or not, before the Internet redefined life as we knew it, people actually made phone calls, on landlines none the less. Nowadays, landlines are unheard of and cell phones aren’t even used to make calls.

Times were better before the Internet. People weren’t dependent on apps, Google and Microsoft Office. Everything was handwritten — lecture notes, essays, love letters, thank you notes, postcards, recipes, checks, grocery and to-do lists. Whereas now, computers are mandatory, the Internet is a necessity and writing longhand has become a nuisance.

The demise of print was inevitable. But I didn’t expect it to fall as soon as it has. And no I’m not talking about newspapers, although they too are “dying.” I’m talking about cursive. The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices have removed cursive from the Common Core State Standards for English.

So far, 41 states have adopted the non-cursive standards. The standards that apparently ensure that the next generation of K–12 students are college and career ready in literacy by the end of high school.

Thankfully, California isn’t one of them.

As society’s values and norms change and technology advances, the standards evolve. The CCSCO and the NGA were right to remove cursive. Writing is simply not part of the national agenda anymore. It has no core value in school or at work.

However, penmanship has a value all its own. Like a familiar voice, handwriting is recognizable. Erasing a form of that is like erasing memories. Something about receiving a letter and being able to identify who wrote it is a feeling that no parent, teacher, school administrator or state leader should be allowed to erase.

America’s academic standings may suck compared to other countries, but replacing a 15 minute a day cursive lesson with QWERTY lessons is not going to improve IQs and GPAs.

Gen X may be able to read our own prescriptions when we hit our 60s, but our grandchildren won’t even know how to write legibly, let alone sign their signature. Whatever the long-term effects entail, I will always still prefer to read a newspaper over an online article, a paperback book over an iPad and a handwritten cursive letter over an Edwardian Script ITC email.

Computers becoming more widely used in the classroom is not a compelling case to remove cursive from the CCSS for English. Cursive is a skill, in which builds upon other artistic skills. After all, there will always be certain lessons that the Internet can’t teach. And it seems that if elementary schools nationwide decide to adopt this non-cursive standard than print will surely die, right alongside physical activity and playing outside.

  • YellowApple

    You do realize that it’s possible to write without doing so in cursive, correct? Cursive – at least when I was in school (in California) – wasn’t taught as the *only* way to write, nor was it even the preferred way to write once I hit middle school; myself, my friends, my family, my friends’ families, my teachers… they all wrote with print letters, rather than cursive. It was simply more readable, and the constant forcing of cursive during elementary school made much of my own generation (Gen Y? Z? Not really sure how that’s classified) relieved to not have to use it anymore.

    I think you’re being a smidge too dramatic over this; students not learning cursive does not equate to students not knowing how to write at all. You’re welcome to your opinion, but my own opinion – and that of 41 states’ respective educational authorities – is that learning to type is something which is increasingly applicable to students as they become adults, moreso than learning to write in a script – on top of the one which they probably already learned during kindergarten, mind you – which most of said students will likely never use beyond elementary school.

    Of course, it doesn’t have to be mutually-exclusive; my own elementary school experience included both cursive lessons *and* QWERTY lessons. However, if asked to choose between the two, I would argue that QWERTY is more useful for a majority of students, since many – if not most – of those students will be required to use computers as a part of their jobs and lives as adults, while few – if any – of those students will be required (or even advised at all) to write in cursive. It might not improve IQs (not that IQ scores are even regarded as an accurate measure of intelligence to begin with) or GPAs, but it *will* improve employment prospects, communication ability, hand-eye coordination, and so much more.

    We’ll see what California decides, though. I wouldn’t necessarily be averse to cursive being taught in place of conventional handwriting/penmanship; I really don’t have anything against cursive specifically, and I do, in fact, write many things in cursive. It’s just the thought of prioritizing a *second* handwriting style over a skill that’s both useful and increasingly necessary in adulthood that makes little sense.

  • Thomas Slate

    Have the educational systems gone totally insane? Not being able to sign one’s name in the near future for millions of children is inconceivable. I’m just at a total loss for words.More government control that is beyond anything Orwellian. What does the future governments think could possibly benefit from such insanity besides the total disintegration of Individually? What’s next, Imbedding citizens with UFC codes and using thumbprints for ID purposes? Just let me go in Peace.

  • Natalia

    I agree, and too prefer books and newspapers to ipads and computers. However as a lefty, script was always a challenge for me. With right handed folks they pull/drag the pen as the write, this gives it a nice neat flow. With left handed folks we need to push the pen, and this results in choppier, and more frantic looking script. I prefer hand written, but in print. Some of my letter do connect, in a sort of semi script…certain letters just flow better. Fs, Ys, Gs, and Js tend to connect and take on cursive characteristics. I think handwriting is very important, script…not TOO much.

  • bob

    personally, I’m gratified that someone can read this blog post by kaylee from Firefly and have it be read by someone who, while they can’t do anything about it, can at least comprehend the level of writing that went into its making.

  • Daniel

    You speak as though they stop teaching any form of writing. Unless printing is no longer taught, children will still be able to read and write legibly. You also say that cursive is recognizable, well, so is printing. Misshapen letters and such occur in both writing forms and are recognizable.

    On your point of QWERTY lessons not raising IQ or GPA, well, neither would cursive lessons, would they? And by teaching children to use a computer, you’re preparing them for the world that they will live in. If computers have made such a large impact already, what about when kindergarten students of today are in their 30s? The change is to prepare children for the world they will live in, not the one we used to.

  • vexorian

    I like this post, very uplifting. Hopefully cursive will be wiped from the face of earth.

  • Scott

    I do remember the times before the internet and my nostalgic brain is going to make it seem like it was better than it actually was. Becuase I was a kid and life is good when you are a kid, which has nothing to do with the amount of technology available.
    Times were better before people were depended on pen and paper. They just memorized everything through story telling.
    After papyrus the demise of story telling was inevitable.
    Blah blah blah

  • Casey Fenton (@cfenton23)

    While I can appreciate the classic beauty of cursive and can mourn the loss of the printed word, if these cursive classes are being replaced by typing courses the benefits largely outweigh the nostalgia. I’d much rather have the next generation type quickly and in real English, than “shrthnd txt spk”

  • James

    In High School one of the most practical classes I took was Speedwriting. However, for one to use Speedwriting properly a knowledge of cursive is prerequisite. I still use Speedwriting to this day and have found that it greatly reduces time in writing things down.

  • Kevan

    I’m sorry, but cursive writing is useless. There is no use for it beyond signing your name semi-legibly. Moreover, it takes up time from much more important aspects of English- like actually understanding grammar, being able to phonetically read, etc., that should be taught at similar ages.

    Writing legibly in no way requires cursive writing. Print writing is fine.

    I’m an academic, and in medicine. I haven’t written in cursive (aside from my signature) in 15 plus years. This is a skill that is not necessary for life or understanding any life skill, unless one is a professional calligrapher. Please let this relic pass.

  • I suppose the writer of this article also thought the typewriter going away was a shame to.

    or handwritten letters being replaced with email was a shame.

    why waste time teaching students a non-useful skills? this mentality only shows why the US is trailing in education compared to other nations.

  • Doug

    Schools being taught not to teach? Not right.

  • karan h

    That’s a good story grandma! i think i’ll post a letter in my illegible cursive handwriting that i get criticized for at every opportunity(and i’m a computer engineer) praising your views!

  • Benjamin Schiff

    Cry me a river, cursive is a useless thing that many of us had been told would be a norm in college. The bottom line is that a QWERTY lesson isn’t going to improve grades but then again neither did cursive in the first place. The internet is going to be a massive job provider for these kids and in my opinion they should try their hand at computer coding at a young age as per other countries curriculum.

  • sandy kestenbaum

    just today i received a handwritten letter from a distant cousin in response to my handwritten letter. it was a pleasure
    it’s hard to believe this is happening. schools are supposed to teach the basics (reading writing arithmetic) and then we have a whole lifetime to decide what we want to use

  • Lightgiver

    Cursive is nice because it allows you to write faster,but it is horribly outdated and hard to learn and master. With people using computers to write more and more you get less and less of a benefit from taking all that time to learn a 17th century script that no one outside of the US uses anymore. It would be best if we learnt European style joint writing. It is a modernized cursive that is more recognizable and therefore easier to learn and is just as fast to write as our Victorian style cursive.

  • D.A. Moore

    God forbid we teach kids to write. How are they supposed to read the Constitution? Oh yeah, they won’t be able to. Just reprints (adapted and manipulated). Sound about right for this country.

  • Aita

    Meanwhile, those of us with Chordites write, on average, six and a half times faster…

    Strange, how useless and outdated things tend to go away, isn’t it?

  • susan

    i vote for spencerian cursive, or a least copperplate.
    legible and beautiful.

    and, i prefer reading on a tablet.

  • enrico

    I couldn’t wait to read the comments and lo and behold they were exactly what I expected. I find it fascinating that human race has given itself so willfully to the gods of tech. It’s not the Holy Grail and, honestly, that more people don’t approach it with skepticism is a very scary thing. Let me rephrase that. I think GenX and previous generations do approach tech with skepticism and one way to do that is to draw analogies or parallels to the way things were. Do we trash thousands of years of learning and development and place all of our eggs in a basket that is, quite frankly, a big old mess. The infrastructure the internet is built on is weak and flawed, programs are written upon programs, and nothing you do is private. Whoohoo!

  • Nicole Wichert

    SAT essay scores are higher for students writing in cursive. As cursive does not require the writer to constantly lift the pen/pencil, the entire idea is easier to both write and read. I have seen people (mostly younger than thirty) who form their letters so slowly in print, they have actually forgotten what they wanted to impart by the end of the sentence. Another observation: how can teachers teach cursive when they, themselves, can only print?

  • KateGladstone

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)

    More recently, it has also been documented that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia.
    This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive poses even more difficulties than print-writing. (Contrary to myth, reversals in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”)
    
    — According to comparative studies of handwriting speed and legibility in different forms of writing, the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print. (There’s even an iPad app teaching kids and others to read cursive, whether or not they write it or ever will write it. The app — “Read Cursive” — is a free download. Those who are rightly concerned with the vanishing skill of cursive reading may wish to visit appstore.com/readcursive for more information.)

    We don’t require our children to learn to make their own pencils (or build their own printing presses) before we teach them how to read and write. Why require them to write cursive before we teach them how to read it? Why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?
    Just as each and every child deserves to be able to read all kinds of everyday handwriting (including cursive), each and every one of our children — dyslexic or not — deserves to learn the most effective and powerful strategies for high-speed high-legibility handwriting performance.
    Teaching material for practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive which is venerated by too many North American educators. Some examples, in several cases with student work also shown: http://www.BFHhandwriting.com, http://www.handwritingsuccess.com, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/curriculum.html )

    Even in the USA and Canada, educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
    (If you would like to take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, and nor restricted to teachers — visit http://www.poll.fm/4zac4 for the One-Question Handwriting Survey, created by this author. As with the Zaner-Bloser teacher survey, so far the results show very few purely cursive handwriters — and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world — 75% of the response totals, so far — consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.)
    
    When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

    Believe it or not, some of the adults who themselves write in an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me that they are teachers who still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or who still teach their students that all adults habitually and normally write in cursive and always will. (Given the facts on our handwriting today, this is a little like teaching kids that our current president is Richard Nixon.)

    What, I wonder, are the educational and psychological effects of teaching, or trying to teach, something that the students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?
    Cursive’s cheerleaders (with whom I’ve had some stormy debates) sometimes allege that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote that form of handwriting. The cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, that it instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or that it confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of the human race. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident as soon as others examined the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim provides no source,

    or

    /2/ if a source is cited, and anyone checks it out, the source turns out to have been misquoted or incorrectly paraphrases by the person citing it
    
    or

    /3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.
    
    Cursive devotees’ eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are commonly made — under oath — in testimony before school districts, state legislatures, and other bodies voting on educational measures. The proposals for cursive are, without exception so far, introduced by legislators or other spokespersons whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — although investigative reporting of the questionable testimony does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when the discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill? (Documentation on request: I am willing to be interviewed by anyone who is interested in bringing this serious issue inescapably before the public’s eyes and ears.)
    
    By now, you’re probably wondering: “What about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive?” Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
     Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

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

    SOURCES:

    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
    Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /3/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    Ongoing handwriting poll: http://poll.fm/4zac4

    The research most often misrepresented by devotees of cursive (“Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Dr. Karin Harman-James at Indiana University):
    https://www.hw21summit.com/research-harman-james

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
    http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g

    TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
    http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To

    HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
    http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
    handwritingrepair@gmail.com