August 17, 2007

Cursive Writing? Why teach it?

OK So I was having a conversation with my wife this morning about the things we teach in second and third grade. With young children and my wife about to start a new teaching position after being home for 8 years with the kids, this is the primary topic of conversation. (I sneak a quick comment in on Second Life or podcasting or Facebook from time to time, but they are generally ignored.) One issue that came up was teaching cursive writing.

Why do we still teach it?

I said that maybe we still need it to be able to read letters from our mothers, but my wife will certainly be emailing our kids. Our daughter is the only one in the family without a laptop now. So I really can't think of a compelling reason to teach it, except maybe for speed of writing. Most of us use some combination of print and cursive writing anyway.

I am guessing this has been a well hashed out topic on the blogosphere, but I though it was interesting. I was also wondering that if we didn't teach kids to read cursive writing as children, would they be able to easily pick it up (at least reading it) as an adult?

Come to think of it I can't remember the last time I wrote a whole paragraph with a pen.


  1. So do you think that cursive will go the way of calligraphy? Nice if you know it, but certainly not necessary? What about printing?

    And finally, I take it that you don't see much of a rise for handwriting recognition? I'm pretty amazed with what the tablet can do with cursive recognition, even with handwriting as funky as mine.

    What do you think? Interesting questions here.

  2. It is interesting. I think we will always print, but it is interesting. The handwriting recognition should continue to support the intergation of the two worlds.

  3. I stopped using cursive in the 1980s (for no good reason I can recall) and I've forgotten most of it. On the other hand, I can work a keyboard now....

    Maybe we can think of cursive as an early technology that's been replaced. (I like Laura's comparison with calligraphy.) Maybe we could shift teaching-learning time away from cursive and into something else.

    But, imagine the ballyhoo if schools dropped it from the curriculum! The media and 'back to basics' crowd would have a field day.

  4. Good points Wendell. I think it is something that we should really look at the functional application. I agree, it isn't going anywhere for a long time.

  5. It is ONLY used so people can sign their name.

  6. Anonymous9:52 AM

    I happen to like cursive. I think it is very useful for writing quickly. I use print a lot more now than I used to, but I think cursive looks nicer and is easier. There are moments that you want something to look nice without going to the trouble of something like calligraphy. I don't think calligraphy is a good comparison, because calligraphy is slow and inconvenient. It is only for decoration.

  7. Anonymous9:59 PM

    There was an article in Newsweek in the last six months about the "why" of teaching cursive. It actually has something to do with how the brain functions, and the gist of the article was it is beneficial to learn how to write in cursive because it helps some other brain function. I was obviously typing on my computer, and therefore my brain cannot recall the precise information in the article. It was interesting, and handwriting really should still be taught in school. In my mind it's right up there with learning how to tell time, count change and rote memorize math facts. Someday it won't be a digital clock, the register won't calculate the change and how can you do basic Algebra or any other kind of math without knowing ie MEMORIZING math facts. Okay, okay, I fell off my soap box.

  8. Good points. It is may be a better way of expressing yourself. I just rarely do it myself. I almost always do some sloppy combination that is mostly print.

  9. Anonymous10:43 AM

    Why do we need to teach cursive? Interesting question here. Well, it has a lot to do with how children learn. Montessori methodology believes that cursive is like painting to little children. When we see little children drawing, they often draw circles after circles. Cursive for them is a natural way to learn how to write. What do you think?

  10. There is probably some validity to that, although it doesn't seem to come natural to all children. Some have to work hard at it.

  11. Anonymous9:00 PM

    You should definitely read this article from a well known tutor and home schooling spokeswoman:

    It's basically an argument for the teaching of cursive first and then print later.

  12. i know this post is old but i had to comment anyway. its the very points that everyone mentions thats the reason they still teach cursive writing in schools.

    Technology has made us forget the simplest things and learning cursive writing is something we have used for ages and still can use it now, why forget it just because we have computers.

    I think that cursive is an art form. So if it shouldn't be thought in schools, then why teach art when u can teach children to use photoshop instead. Don't let a classic art form be forgotten.

  13. Triona... good comments.

  14. Anonymous10:57 PM

    There is value in continuing to teach cursive. It's a very personal form of written communication. When I have something important to say to another person in my life, taking the time to hand-write a personal note or letter allows me time to carefully consider what I'm writing. It also has value to the recipient.

    Although I'm fast on the keyboard, I think differently when I write in cursive. On a keyboard, I'm more likely to dash off a quick but less well-composed or thoughtful response, note. email or letter. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive or conflictual issues with family and close friends.

    Some people say there's no value in printed books as well as personal handwriting, and I disagree with both. Let's not be too hasty in the 21st century to throw the baby out with the bathwater!

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  16. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Interesting question. I have another one though.
    Why do we teach children math? Why tell them that 2+2=4?? Even the cheapest mobile phone can do that for them... Laptops can do that too. No need to use their hands or God forbid their brains.
    Other people who used both invented things so they won't need either. All they have to do is earn enough money to buy them... and then buy new ones when their old almost one whole year old stuff went out of fashion.
    What can I say? Welcome to the 21st century.

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