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To Write or Not too Right?

March 16, 2013

image We are raising future generations who may not be able to write, period.  I guess I would be considered a cursive loyalist.  I mean I worked so hard to learn this skill and was so proud to be able to write like adults. It felt like a secret language in and of it self, when I was a child.

Does it bother anyone else that cursive writing may be on the way out? Are you concerned that your children or the very next generation of children won’t even know what it is, much less how to write in cursive.   If I were choosing a school for my children, I would seek out the ones that still teach the basics.  And, then add in technology, as a secondary or third tier requirement.                     I love modern technology. But we should not give up teaching written communication, more importantly, cursive writing.

“For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery. The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell. With computer keyboards and smartphones increasingly occupying young fingers, the gradual death of the fancier ABC’s is revealing some unforeseen challenges.” ~Katie Zezima, The New York Times, Published: April 27, 2011 “The Case for Cursive.”

Cursive handwriting has been taught for more than 300 years in U.S. schools and has gone through various phases as noted in another similar blog.

It was once the primary method of communication. And, my grandmother Edith Faulstich was a collector of letters and “covers” all hand written, of course. The oldest hand written letter I ever saw was a clay tablet from Eygpt, the she had in her personal collection. Another was from the 1700’s with a red wax seal on it.  I was very young back then, but the handwriting was alluring and sexy.

Handwriting, was used for all public documents, such as land deeds, legal paperwork, and business records, and for personal letters and even generals’ orders in battle. The quality of cursive writing was an indicator of social status and educational level (Mehegan, 2009; Supon, 2009; Wolfe, 2009; Wallace & Schomer, 1994).

For decades, American students spent 45 minutes every day learning and practicing cursive writing.

Until the 1970s, penmanship was a separate daily lesson from first through sixth grade and a separate grade on report cards. Since that time, however, its importance in the elementary school curriculum has declined steadily (New American Cursive Penmanship Program, 2009; Carpenter, 2007; Pressler, 2006; Francis, 2000).

For more reading, here is a very recent article on the cursive debate:

  • Common Core State Standards for what students are expected to learn have been picked up by most of the states in the union. Those standards don’t require cursive. Keyboarding skills, however, are featured in the writing standards. That means most states no longer have a mandate for teaching cursive.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, the Zaner-Bloser Company, which has been publishing a penmanship curriculum since 1904, recommended 40 minutes of handwriting instruction per day. By the 1980s, it suggested just 15 minutes. Zaner-Bloser offers course work through eighth grade but admits that schools rarely buy writing materials beyond the third grade.
  • According to a 2007 nationwide survey on handwriting instruction by researchers at Vanderbilt University (Graham et al., 2007), cursive handwriting is still widely taught in U.S. public and private schools. The researchers surveyed a random sample of about 200 teachers in grades 1-3 in all 50 states. Ninety percent of the responding teachers stated that their schools required instruction in handwriting. In schools that taught handwriting, 50 percent of second grade teachers and 90 percent of third grade teachers offered instruction in cursive handwriting.
  • In Zaner-Bloser’s 2005 national survey, a majority of elementary school teachers reported spending one hour or less on handwriting per week Suddath, 2009; Kelley, 2007).  Teachers reported that they spent about 60 minutes per week, or 12-15 minutes per day, teaching cursive. Graham and colleagues (2007) cautioned that survey results were based on self-reported numbers and that a separate study with direct observation of 22 teachers in one school district found that far less time was devoted to cursive handwriting.
  • Graham and colleagues (2007) also reported that school districts varied significantly in the amount of handwriting instruction they provided to students. For example, the researchers visited second and third grade classrooms that offered virtually no instruction in cursive handwriting.

In general, their observations of U.S. classrooms found that the emphasis in U.S. schools have shifted from the formation of letters to the ability to write legibly and efficiently. Other researchers have noted that cursive writing’s declining importance in the curriculum is reflected by a lessening of the standards used to evaluate it. Over the years, the goal of teaching penmanship has shifted from “high quality” to “legibility” (Pressler, 2006; Wallace & Schomer, 1994).

Share this post if you support cursive writing as core curriculum in schools and across education.

We can’t dare forget how to communicate with written language…..will we soon be a society of illiterates?

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