Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's Wrong with Cursive Writing Instruction?

Wait till the edublob hears about this one.

The South Carolina senate balked at requiring the teaching of cursive writing because that would cost the state $27.6 million.

Say, what? 
As Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, said, that's ridiculous, since every elementary school teacher should know how to write in cursive.
"How much is it to put a banner across a classroom, give them a pad of paper and say, 'We're cursive writing today?' It seems to me that's a defensive item," he said.
Why, $25 million for instructional materials and $5 million for travel for teacher training, according to the state budget office. Now it admits there may have been a miscalculation. 

Ya think?


Clisby said...

I was just commenting about this on facebook. Regardless of whether you're for or against teaching cursive writing, how could it cost $27 million?

Is it that hard/expensive to google for free cursive worksheets and print them off? Like this:

KateGladstone said...

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 on request.)

Further research demonstrates that the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the print-writers nor the cursive writers. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there's even an iPad app to teach how: named "Read Cursive," of course — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that's actually typical of effective handwriters?

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?
Why glorify (to the time of twenty-eight million dollars, or six hundred thousand dollars, or whichever cost is being proposed at the moment) something that, at best, is second-best?

Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you stunningly graceful, adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently 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 when others examine the claimed support:

/1/ either the claim offers no traceable source, on request or otherwise,


/2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., an Indiana University research study comparing print-writing with keyboarding is perennially misrepresented by cursive's defenders as a study "comparing print-writing with cursive"),


/3/ the claimant _correctly_ quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

What about cursive and signatures? 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 writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, a few months into the school year, 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.

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works •

Jen A. said...

There is some actual research that has recently gone on in this field.

So, either/or, but apparently both is the worst. Given the way I see many students in the second grade struggle to get their words and ideas down on paper, and try to remember which way to write a lowercase 'b' or 'd', I'd be a stronger advocate for cursive writing.

But in the end, it's all about mastery, fluency, and legibility. No matter what system people use, letters are always going to be occasionally joined or occasionally separated - it's at the point when the style becomes ones own that the decision (probably more subconscious than conscious) is up to the writer.

As an interesting addendum, there is no 'print' version of Russian writing - it is all done in cursive, and that is not a hindrance to being able to read machine-printed texts (despite some major differences).

KateGladstone said...

As a self-remediated dyslexic dupysgraphic, who made more reversals in cursive than in anything else (:and who is now a handwriting teacher, with students referred to me because they reverse in cursive too), I can't endorse cursive. (Other reasons I can't endorses cursive are summed up in my YouTube video: in the search window on YouTube, type "Handwriting Repair.")

In line with the current research indications (cited in my earlier message) that the best writers develop a handwriting form which combines the best elements of the two prevalent forms (cursive and print-writing), we see looking at the form of handwriting which is the shared ancestor of cursive and print-writing. That form, italic handwriting, is used on many nations in Europe and elsewhere (e.g.,, in Finland, which consistently scores first in international assessments of academic progress). To see what italic looks like, and find numerous resources (many are free) —,,,,,