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January 21, 2017

Kacey Templin

Pros and Cons Series Part 3: Should Cursive Be Taught in School?

Topics: STEM, STEAM

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This post is part of a new blog series where two authors present the pro and con side of a relevant topic – this week, that topic is whether or not cursive should be taught in school. If you like (or dislike) the format, or just want to get involved in the conversation, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page!

Pro

by Rachael Tom

Is there a case for cursive?  Common Core Standards no longer require students to learn cursive handwriting in an effort to save money and time.  As of May 2016, only 15 states continue to include it in their Core Curriculum, leaving parents to create cursive clubs afterschool for students who want to learn.  Although writing in print and typing may appear sufficient at face-value, cursive has been proven through numerous scientific studies to improve academic performance and manage dyslexia.  Unlike computers, handwriting is accessible to all, while technology isn’t.  This form of writing is also what our country was founded on and without knowledge of it, deciphering historical documents becomes impossible.  When it comes to personal safety, which is more difficult to forge: a cursive signature or a printed one?

Compared to print, the flow of cursive movements comes much more naturally to children, and compared to typing, engages far more cognitive skills.  This cognitive development helps students reason, problem solve, conceptualize and make decisions as they get older.  Fine motor skills such as coordination, muscle development and synchronization of hands and eyes, are also improved when writing cursive.  Additionally, the letter strokes of writing cursive aids in the eyes’ left-to-right movement for reading.  Cursive is also efficient for note-taking because rather than a series of strokes, a word in cursive is one unit. “It’s not a stop and start,” Jan Olsen, founder of Handwriting Without Tears states, “Think of yourself in traffic: if you’re stopping and starting… you don’t do as well as if you can just move gradually down the road.”  This form of efficient note-taking helps students retain lecture information better than typing.  The phrase, “Write it down or you’ll forget it,” is scientifically true.  Neuropsychology shows that the act of listening and handwriting links the verbal and spatial processing regions of the brain, strengthening memory.  This ability to transform lectures, thoughts and ideas into written words improves the overall quality of writing and syntax compared to those who type.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook, employers who require skilled writing have noticed that employees whose education relied on typing for written work have a decreased level of writing quality than other staff.  With fine motor skill and cognitive development, efficient note-taking, strengthened memory and elevated writing quality, there is a positive correlation between handwriting and increased academic performance across all subjects.

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When it comes to dyslexia therapy, cursive is instrumental in helping students read.  Those with dyslexia find reading and writing challenging because their brain associates sounds and letter combinations inefficiently.  Cursive engages multiple areas of the brain and muscles to help those with learning disabilities remember specific letters.  Cathy Ruse, a parent to eight-year old Lucy states, “She would never be able to remember ‘d,’ but when she started sky writing ‘d’ and using all these muscles, it helped her brain remember.”  In addition, the mechanics of cursive teach dyslexic students how to group letters in proper order as one unit, unlike a group of spaced out letters (such as print), which causes dyslexic children to swap letters more frequently.

As of 2013, 79% of American homes had computers.  Continuing handwriting instruction levels the playing field for students across all demographics.  Those without regular access to technology may find it difficult to type all written work, however, those with access to computers can always handwrite.  Despite the rise in technology in recent years, handwriting will always have an important place in this country.  America was founded on documents written in cursive, and knowing cursive gives all Americans the ability to read the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other invaluable literature.  Cursive is not just a method of writing words: it is a beautiful method of communication with historical, scientific and educational importance to all. 

Con

by Kacey Templin

As children, Millennials were taught how to write in cursive in grade school. Then, as these students progressed from elementary to middle school, cursive became less important, and typed documents were the standard. This coincided nicely with the introduction of the personal computer, and the importance of typing skills. By the time these children entered college, many had forgotten how to write in anything but script. It wasn’t that these students were obstinate, cursive writing was simply not emphasized or valued. Cursive education has been made nearly obsolete with the emergence of the keyboard. When it comes to 21st century skills, typing is “in," and cursive is “out."

Reading and writing are fundamental elements of learning. How children learn to read and write is changing, from books and chalkboards, to tablets and computer screens. The online world has become increasingly powerful, to the point that it invades nearly every part of our daily lives. Research conducted in 2015 by the Nielsen found that the average American adult spends over 11 hours a day in front of a screen. Humans and technology are so intertwined; it makes sense that typing skills would be elevated to the level that cursive skills once held.

In today’s society, typing is the key to a multitude of jobs, as most now require some level of computer proficiency to succeed. Companies from banks to travel agents to retailers are increasingly shifting to the digital world, and need a computer-literate workforce to help them maintain their online presence. And a basic education in typing just won’t do. Employers are much more likely to hire an experienced touch typist than a hunt-and-peck typist.

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Some schools, believing that students are already learning to type at home, are foregoing typing classes. Just because children learn to type on cell phones and tablets at an early age, doesn’t mean that they know proper typing skills. This assumption has led to a situation where students are coming into their classrooms without the keyboarding abilities they need, leaving the classroom equally unprepared for further educational or professional development. In this quickly shifting world, it just makes sense for schools to devote time to learning proper typing skills than to spend time learning a skill that, while beautiful, is essentially obsolete.

Typing also conveys information at a much faster rate than traditional writing. “What we want from writing … is cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts,” Anne Trubek, associate professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin College in Ohio, wrote some years ago. “This is what typing does for millions. It allows us to go faster, not because we want everything faster in our hyped-up age, but for the opposite reason: we want more time to think.” Even when typing with just two fingers, the average typing speed is significantly faster than handwriting in all cases. Information can also be organized easier and disseminated quicker. It’s much easier to email notes than it is to send them in the mail or hand them to the recipient in person the next time the sender sees them.

Typing is also less error focused than handwriting. If a mistake is made, students can easily undo or delete the problem and start over, and suggestions are given in applications like Microsoft Word. This can help the student master English skills, and the learning process can feel more rewarding.

Typing is an increasingly important skill that deserves more attention in today’s technologically advanced society. Writing with a pen and paper is still important, but it is unnecessary to devote precious time to an archaic device employed by our forefathers. It is logical for schools to replace cursive classes with typing classes, as this prepares students for the jobs of the future.

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