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Why I support Florida’s inclusion of cursive writing in their new standards.


I was talking to a teacher from Florida the other night and learned that her state has added an important element to the Common Core Standards, cursive writing.

We all know how cursive is an important 21st Century Skill! I cant tell you how often I hear from someone from the business community bemoaning the serious lack of well crafted, hand written résumés crossing their desks.

As you can see, I myself love blogging in cursive and lament those bygone days of handwritten, cursive newspapers and magazines.

I wanted to take a moment to laud Florida and suggest a few other 21st Century Skills they may like to add.

Open Fire Cooking

To few of us know how to build a proper cooking fire. We’ve lost the important scientific knowledge of raking the proper amount of coals and the proper height to hang pots and meat.

Microwaves are convenient, yes. However how is anyone going to heat up that Hot Pocket after the zombie apocalypse unless we teach kids about fire?

Spinning and Weaving

Yes, I admit that I too get much of my clothes from Target. However, I still know my warp from my weft! Imagine the fine motor skills a young student can learn by keeping his yarn a consistent thickness and twist?

Harnessing a Buggy

Cars are nice. I like my Prius for sure. We’ve all heard that there wont be oil forever! Even at fifty miles to the gallon, I’m driving on borrowed time!

Horses will run as long as there is grass growing. Its high time we start teaching children how to use those horses properly!

So, there you go Florida, three important 21st Century Skills for your consideration.

I hope you don’t let cursive writing languish alone.

Sincerely

David Orphal

------------------

Now, if you didn’t notice my tongue deeply lodged in my cheek, let’s take a minute and get real about cursive.

Yes, cursive writing is dying. Let it. With computers, smart phones, and advancing talk-to-text software development, we don’t need cursive anymore.

My Florida teacher friend, while not defending the State Board’s decision, tried to explain to me their rationale. “Kids can’t read the Constitution without cursive,” she said. “They will need to be able to read cursive in order to understand primary historical sources.”

I called bull pucky right away. If we seriously think for one moment that school children should be able to read original primary sources without a translation, then we’re saying that they need to learn cuneiform, hieroglyphics, hanzi, Sanskrit, Gothic, Ojibwe and a whole host of other historical writing systems. So clearly, the historical-document justification is a scam.

What’s really going on here? I bet you’ve guessed it already, dear reader. The wise members of the Florida State Board of Education lament that kids these days don’t know cursive. If learning cursive writing in school was good enough for the members of the board, well, it’s good enough for their children. Or grandchildren. And the rest of the state’s children.

These are the kinds of decisions we get when we elect non-professional educators to positions of power over education. This is the kind of logic that goes into the very important decision of “What should our kids know and be able to do?”

It’s time for the Florida State Board to concede that the world is changing and evolving and skills that were once useful are no longer so.

Let cursive retire to it’s proper 21st Century place, the signature line.

* Drops fountain pen *

7 Comments

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on February 26, 2016 at 5:44pm:

Write's Note

Absolutely NO disrespect directed at the Amish or their buggies. My great grandfather was a harness maker, which is why I thought of that example. And, yes, I do historical re-enacting as a hobby and I really do know how to make a cooking fire and spin (badly). I do not know how to weave. 

Kate Gladstone commented on February 26, 2016 at 10:30pm:

Good handwriting is NOT synonymous with cursive

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 a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive” — appstore.com/readcursive 

       Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach this vital skill quickly — for free — instead of leaving it to depend upon the difficult and time-consuming process of learning to write in cursive (which will cost millions to mandate)?

 

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://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/09/08/opinion/OPED-WRITING.1.pdf, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/hwlesson.html, http://www.freehandwriting.net/educational.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 not 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 (and no source is provided on request)

 

or, almost as often,

 

/2/ when sources are cited and can be checked (by finding and reading the cited document), the sources provided turn out to include and/or to reference materials which are misquoted or incorrectly represented by the person(s) offering these as support for cursive,

 

or, even more often,

 

/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

 

 

Handwriting research on cursive's lack of observable benefit for students with dyslexia/dysgraphia:

 

"Does cursive handwriting have an impact on the reading and spelling performance of children with dyslexic dysgraphia: A quasi-experimental study." Authors: Lorene Ann Nalpon & Noel Kok Hwee Chia — URL: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/234451547_Does_cursive_handwriting_have_an_impact_on_the_reading_and_spelling_performance_of_children_with_dyslexic_dysgraphia_A_quasi-experimental_study

      and

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/EDU_keyboarding.html

      



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 • 518-482-6763 

DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest

CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

handwritingrepair@gmail.com

165 North Allen Street • First Floor

Albany, NY 12206-1706 • USA 

Julie Hiltz commented on February 28, 2016 at 6:04pm:

Perhaps you should be cajoling the people of Florida instead?

Dave,

Having beed raised in the FL public education system and currently working as a Media Specialist/Technology Specialist here, I had the same thoughts as you about cursive writing initially. It feels like one of those things we can certainly do without. Cursive writing was just one of many issues that led to the state re-evaluating its adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2013. Florida being just one of many states to have the same debates around that time.

However, you're placing blame on the wrong entity here. If anything, the Florida Board of Education and the Education Commissioner is to be applauded for their handling of the controversy surrounding the Florida Standards. Believe me, I don't say or think that too often, but their earned their praise here.

Under the order of Governor Scott, the Department of Education initiated a public review of the standards. A website was established were the public was asked to comment on specific standards, not just a simple "Check Yes or No" if you like Common Ccore. The Commissioner held three public hearings (I was at one) and spent hours hearing public testimony. The transcripts of numerous emails and phone messages were released for public scrutiny. It was a well advertised and thorough vetting of the standards...without the usual politics. In the end, the cursive was added to the ELA standards and the math standards received some more calculus.  

The Board of Education (positions appointed by the governor) and the Department of Education (led by the governor's appointed Education Commissioner) went above and beyond to make sure that all voices in the debate were heard. The people of the state were listened to and everyone seems to have moved on. 

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on February 29, 2016 at 10:27am:

Thank you for the clarification

I guess I'm used to local and state boards working fairly whimiscally and with little regard to public opinion. These position so often fly under the media radar on election years. 

After reading your comments, I have to say kudos to the Board for listening to the will of the people. 

I'm sticking with shame of the people who are putting nostalgia over progress on this issue. 

Sandy Merz commented on March 2, 2016 at 8:49am:

And analog clocks?

Hey Dave,

Some time ago, at Stories from School Arizona, I published a blog based on a colleague's question about whether to teacher analog clocks. My takeaway - and it would apply to your tongue-in-cheek examples - is that defending these things on any Common Core or Modern World application is misguided. But, in most cases, they're kind of fun, in a maker place kind of way. Also, they do access different kinds of thinking and perceiving that their more efficient replacements don't. Do I teach any of these? Mmmm, not specifically, but my students do make optical telegraphs - an 18th century precurser of the internet. Here's a quote from my post from a colleague, Barb, that's worth a look: 

I don’t know if it’s necessary to learn to read an analog clock; but I definitely think it is good for the brain and even better for the mind. Even though the analog clock “moves time” through a single plane or two dimensions, at least time is moving through space at some level. And time needs space although not as much as space needs time. Digital clocks offer only a linear time, and even the linearity is broken up—a kind of dotted line of time. I think our conditioned and cultural tendencies in the west—forever– and increasingly all over the planet, are already towards a mental and psychic linearity( and very much broken up at that ) which lacks depth and scope and a connection to the non-physical world. So, I love the analog clock and the sense of something moving through time and time moving through something….The only thing is that analog watches ALL lose time on my wrist pretty dramatically. But I have a great analog art clock made out of those little firecracker things that you stomp on– hanging in my kitchen. It ticks and tocks, too. I still love sensations and the tactile, visual world—so yes, analog clocks.

Susan Graham commented on March 8, 2016 at 1:56am:

So Why Do we Have to Learn This?

Whether cursive, calculus or clockmaking, content may be irrelevant without an answer to the ubiquitous question of

"Why do we have to learn this?"

Which requires we determine:

  • Is this information critical?
  • Is this skill essential?

It seems to me that the answer to that is “None of the Above” and/or “All of the Above” because what knowledge is critical and what skills are essential are highly dependent on the interest, needs, goals, and circumstances of the individual learner. The problem is that those interests, needs, goals, and circumstances may be highly specific and are constantly changing. (Think Slum Dog Millionaire)

Maybe content matters a lot less than process. Maybe what matters more is that the content is the frame on which the learner  acquires the ability to access information, make connections, solve existing problems, and develop new possibilities.

It may be counterintutive, but maybe what we teach our students to know and be able to do matters less than how we teach our students to learn is what we teach them to know and be able to do.

Steve Kale commented on January 18, 2017 at 2:23am:

Help

Handwriting matter most in any written work. If you want your work in good handwriting and cleanly then come to us and just ask to write my assignment for me and get help from our expert

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