Is Cursive Writing Being Cursed?

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

In the Casper Star Tribune, Sunday, November 25, 2012, p A2, a headline by Christina Hoag, Associated Press, blared: “Penmanship still rules in Calif. Schools.” A subtitle read: “Most states erase cursive writing from their curriculms (sic); keyboard skills become higher priority.” Do you find it ironic that the person keyboarding that title misspells curriculums?

“Bucking a growing trend to eliminating cursive from elementary school curriculums or making it optional, California is among the states keeping longhand as a third-grade staple,” said the article.

The article also stated, “Dustin Ellis, fourth-grade teacher at Big Springs Elementary School in Simi Valley, said he assigns a cursive practice packet as homework, but if he had his druthers, he’d limit cursive instruction to learning to read it, instead of writing it. Out of his 32 students, just three write in cursive, he noted.” (If no one writes in cursive, what will there be to read of it?)

The article adds…“Many younger teachers aren’t prepared to teach cursive or manuscript, said Kathleen S. Wright, national handwriting product manager for Zaner-Bloser Publishing, which develops instructional tools.”

So what have we gained by eliminating cursive writing? While, “some see it as a waste of time…others see it as necessary so kids can hone fine motor skills, reinforce literacy and develop their own unique stamp of identity,” said the Tribune article.

According to an article in the New York Times, by Maria Konnikova, June 2, 2014, “Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.”

The Common Core standards call for teaching keyboarding and dropping cursive by third grade or maybe even earlier. Will this delay learning and brain development?Common CoreJPEG

In a 2012 study, “The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex,” according to the Times article. This activity was not shown while typing or tracing a letter.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how,” said this article.

While I would not wish to return to writing articles and stories by hand, I am thankful I had that skill taught and used throughout much of my life. And I see another reason for humans to learn cursive writing as well as keyboarding.

In spite of increasing ways humans can now communicate with each other, I see less meaningful communication, and more of the “attachment disorder” I feel our culture is culturing! Connecting in the presence of eye contact, facial expressions, emotive gestures, and maybe even touch seems to be going the way of cursive writing. Are we learning to connect emotionally or physically in the presence of someone else only to satisfy selfish desires? (Such as in physical gratification?) And text at all other times? It is not uncommon to see teens walking beside each other, or sitting in a restaurant booth together, concentrating solely on texting to someone or each other.

Cursive writing gives a piece of self to the reader. It is a tangible illustration that someone felt strongly enough about the reader to personally shape letters into words of meaning.

There’s a warmth that settles in my heart when I see a handwritten letter my mother wrote to my father in 1926. I feel a connection to them just holding the paper that their hands made marks on.cursivewritingJPEG

We need to feel emotion, to be a connecting link who cares about those we link to. Yes, I can type “I love you” as I just did. But “I love you” in my own handwriting seems to me to carry more emotion.

What do you think?


25 thoughts on “Is Cursive Writing Being Cursed?

  1. I remember being excited about getting to learn cursive in school. My Grandma Solveig wrote cursive in letters to us and her r’s and t’s were written in a different cursive than the way we were taught. I had this secret “power” by writing in her style when I was outside of school. I think you are on to something when you say children have more of themselves in writing than in keyboarding. So grateful my kids learned cursive.


    1. I always think back to country school when we had a little bit of everything–penmanship, art, music and the three R’s plus history, current events etc. I think it hit every corner of our brain and lit it up. I think teachers knew by instinct and common sense what was needed, not by “studies” or research which can always be skewed. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  2. No arguement. Writing, the kind with pen to paper is priceless. Keyboarding is faster, but thoughts are wrangled when using cursive or even printing on paper. Ecologically it may be better to use keyboards when writing, but I do think it loses something.

    In terms of interpersonal communication, face to face, or even paper to face seems more intimate. You pose some interesting questions. Answers will be telling. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris. I agree. Why not continue to teach both and require use of both I wonder. Too many studies and not enough common sense sometimes. All the while articles tell us to use all of our brain.


  3. I firmly believe that children should be taught cursive in school. I realize that keyboarding has become a way of life and that’s fine if the basics are learned first. In my opinion we are doing these children a disservice if they are not taught writing skills. Believe me, there will come a day when they will need them! Great post, Neva!


  4. One of the exercises we used to do with dyslexic or other learning disabled kids was to have them repeatedly trace sandpaper letters with their fingers. Also draw letters in sand and on other surfaces. This was to create a tactile connection with the brain. Seems like something similar goes on when you hand write lecture notes or outline textbook chapters. We are not simply brains existing in isolation, we have bodies and emotions that influence our brains and how they perceive things. A great book is: Smart Moves, How Learning Is Not All In Your Head.

    IMHO, a hand written note makes a connection that a email simply can’t duplicate.
    Good post.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Kate. You bring another interesting piece to the hand brain connection. While people without hands and fingers may need to learn without that connection, I believe we were meant to have that tactile connection as all were meant to have hands and fingers and eyesight in the original plan. That book sounds interesting, will have to research it.


  5. I think it’s a losing cause. So many of us concerned about the loss of cursive writing are in our 50s, 60s and even older. When we were young, we either wrote or used typewriters (remember shorthand?). Nowadays it’s various kinds of keyboards — at least for a while. Although primitive technology now, voice-recognition typing by our computers and other “smart” devices will get better and better. Or perhaps — like William Gibson SF books — the time may come when there is a melding of AI and the human mind. Why type or speak when AI can read our minds.


    1. You are probably right about the losing battle, as a lot of other “common-sense” issues in my opinion are being fought for and against anymore. My brother-in-law, Al, is here right now and while I really love him, I hope he won’t be able to read my mind someday! Thanks for the comment. My phone has voice recognition which is what led partly to my last blog when it said we were going to hell and deeds instead of Hal and De’s! Thanks for commenting!


  6. Neva, you are so right. I used tp lovr mu hamdwriting. I perfected it in the 6th grade. A handeritten note or a card means more. I think kids need more of the basics. Cher’ley


    1. jThanks Cher’ley. I really think there’s a reason for hand writing as far as developing the brain too. And we humans have a tendency to think we’re improving on something that wasn’t broke. I think the new technology is great, but let’s not throw out the old necessarily.


  7. As an ex-teacher I agree with Neva and Kate regarding the physical development involved in writing letters at an early age, since it most certainly engaged more brain functions and made the whole aspect of reading/ writing interpretation make more sense. I think there’s still a place for pencil and paper in schools regardless of which type of writing is taught. In Scotland, studies proved (roughly between 1970s and 2000) that cursive writing allows the student to maintain a faster ‘thinking process’ whereas script with ‘unjoined areas’ has a tendency to slow down the creative thought processes in writing.


  8. The facts about learning and brain development linked to cursive writing are very interesting, Neva. And interesting link between hand-writing letters, etc., and the way we seem to be distancing from one another now–connecting more online or with the tools of connection than with those right beside us. Something’s lost while something’s gained…


    1. That is true about loss and gain. Seems that way with every new and improved thing. I’ve heard from employers that applicants don’t always do well in interviews because of the face-to-face encounter which people don’t practice as much anymore. I found that interesting too. And as each new generation moves further from something left behind, what is lost is not always realized. Thanks for commenting.


  9. I think the act of hand writing actually connects the person to the words. In children it helps with hand eye co ordination and probably other development lessons as well. It would be a shame to loose it.


  10. If people can no longer “write”, how can they be “writers?” “Typists” would be more accurate, or even “storytellers.” And, how can you sign a document? There’s a difference between “sign your name” (cursive) and “print your name.” I think kids need to learn to write as well as to keyboard — one may not “write” as much with pen and paper as in years past, but “writing” is still important, so why should one be replaced when they are both needed?


    1. I agree with your last statement, (and all of them) why replace it, why not just learn both and light up more areas of the brain? Actually, while this seems progress to some, it seems more like dumbing down to me. When technology fails, such as voice recognition which is where we are headed, we will be in trouble. Thanks for the comment.


  11. I agree. I take notes compulsively and my pen and notebook cost a lot less than a laptop. I used to study for tests by rewriting my notes. Some old technologies shouldn’t be tossed out. Will writers autograph books in the brave new world?


    1. That’s a point I hadn’t even thought about! We’ll have to have a stamp I guess! Increasing techniques for communication seem to adversely affect our communicating.Thanks for commenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.