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Why Is Cursive No Longer Taught?


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#1 Fractal

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:42 AM

I have two grandkids in grade school and I recently found out from their mothers that cursive is no longer being taught. To say I was surprised is an understatement.

 

Supposedly, the rationale is that in today's computerized society, the ability to write in cursive is no longer necessary. Regardless, I find this "theory" curious at best. I personally love to write in my journals and regard handwriting as an art form.

 

Is it just a state-wide thing --- we live in New York State --- or are we on the road to becoming a nation of printers? And not for nothing, if kids don't learn how to write in cursive, will they have the ability to read the cursive writings of previous generations? How will that ultimately affect the knowledge base?

 

 

 



#2 Racoon

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:21 PM

New York State is a super-liberal cess-pool. Thats why they spend More per child on education and get fewer results  and more Dropouts .  Thats Fact.

 

If you wan't to know the REAL reason your kids aren't being educated...??  You'd be called a Racist for pointing out the Obvious.

 

 

You can't argue the Facts even when they distort them tp their advantage .



#3 arissa

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:02 AM

Are you really sitting there with an avatar of a man on a commode saying that someone who assumes their reasoning is because of the state they live in, and then pointing out that it could not be more obvious? That sounds a little racist to me. Assume everything and confirm nothing is what it sounds like to me. The subject is about cursive in the schools and it is not just New York that is doing this, it has been all over the states. I have friends in four different states that are just as outraged by this as many parents I know. The simple fact is that we are getting lazy. The more we rely (and allow our kids to rely on) computers, the less manual work we want to do - including writing in cursive. Seriously, when is the last time you did it, when you signed a check? Do people even use checks anymore? :)



#4 Fractal

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:00 AM

Arissa, I think all of us need to write a check or two once in a while. Even though I try to do most of my banking online, it's not always possible or practical for one reason or another.

 

Although I'm not a teacher by profession, I am actually considering browsing online for instructional workbooks and may attempt to teach my grandkids cursive writing myself!!



#5 Under the Rose

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:07 PM

I suppose one other way to address this is to have computer fonts that are cursive. That won't help with handwriting unless it is practiced, of course, but it would at least be an aid to retain the ability to read script, I am thinking.

 

http://www.pcworld.c...champignon.html

 

There are a large number of cursive fonts available, many for free downloading, but I gather that the problem is that cursive does not display across all platforms and operating systems. Apparently, only Comic Sans MS is common to both Windows and Macintosh.

 

From the perspective of business, fonts should use as little space and type as possible to best convey the information so as to keep speed up and costs down, whether reproduction is via internet or hard copy.

 

It would appear that everyday cursive handwriting is about to become the equivalent of calligraphy from the aspect of being a rare skill. Sadly, I suspect it is economics that is squeezing out cursive handwriting because it takes a longer time to learn and improve this skill and where we do still desire it's use, we can now have technology do the task more precisely than any human.



#6 Fractal

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 09:32 AM

From some preliminary research I've gathered on the web, there seem to be many valid reasons for teaching cursive in schools. I've read that cursive helps kid develop motor skills, for one thing. Maybe even more important, some research suggests learning cursive is very beneficial for kids with dyslexia, and can even decrease their dyslexic tendencies.



#7 arissa

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 04:23 AM

I like the idea of teaching yourself but for me that is not an issue. I am one of the many who has used a computer far too much and not picked up a pen in a long time. The only thing I really do now is sign checks and most are for the schools. All billing is done online or auto-draft. I have a feeling at some point we are going to stop picking up the pen and pencil all-together. We won't need to write anymore and that is just kind of sad to me.



#8 Fractal

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 08:50 AM

I can't even imagine a life without writing. Maybe that's because I have been keeping a handwritten journal for decades. I like choosing different colored pens to record my daily thoughts. I also sketch in these journals. I wonder what kind of disservice we are doing to our children, particularly the artistic, creative ones, by denying them the opportunity to learn cursive.

 

I don't know about anyone else, but I can retain information better when I write out the words rather than keyboard them in.



#9 Gregb

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 09:19 AM

I have no problem with cursive being dropped. Few people use it on a daily basis. This next generation will be nearly all digital. General handwriting is important and will continue to be for many many years, but not cursive. Use that time to each more math or reading.

#10 Excei

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 05:32 PM

New York State is a super-liberal cess-pool. Thats why they spend More per child on education and get fewer results  and more Dropouts .  Thats Fact.

 

If you wan't to know the REAL reason your kids aren't being educated...??  You'd be called a Racist for pointing out the Obvious.

 

 

You can't argue the Facts even when they distort them tp their advantage .

 

I too live in New York and I don't know if I agree with this. Do you have facts to support this? Are you looking at the state as a whole or Upstate versus NYC?

 

To answer this question, I too do think that our kids should be taught cursive. I remember doing worksheet after worksheet when I was a kid. My daughter is now a senior in high school. She knows cursive, through no help of the school. I taught her.



#11 Eclogite

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:53 AM

My daughter has a degree in teaching Early Years in England, so I asked her if there were any plans to drop cursive writing. Although she currently resides in the Far East I believe she is reasonably current with UK practices. Her reply:

 

"I have not heard anything about non cursive, as that's why we teach letter formation the way we do. We definitely don't put American schooling at the frontier."



#12 Buffy

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 10:17 AM

"... We definitely don't put American schooling at the frontier."

 

You Brits have always had better schools than we do. Heck you all finish "high school" at 16....

 

 

Cursive writing does not mean what I think it does, :phones:

Buffy



#13 Verona

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 08:32 AM

Not for nothing, but yesterday while supervising my six year old grandson's homework, I noticed he was mixing up his "b's" with his "d's." I corrected him, but couldn't help but remember the argument that cursive writing is helpful in teaching children with dyslexia and may even help correct the problem. Assuming the readers of this thread know cursive, it is easy to see that the letters "b" and "d" (for example) are written entirely differently in cursive. It certainly makes sense to me that this would help a dyslexic child.



#14 smalfry

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 08:41 AM

I agree Verona. I know cursive but I never really thought about that until just now. They are written quite different. I will write notes in cursive at my house. Sometimes my kids complain and tell me they cannot read some of the words. They are learning cursive this summer and I am teaching them.



#15 Gregb

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Posted 07 June 2014 - 08:47 AM

I just think extra time with math or grammar would be a better use of time.

#16 CraigD

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 09:55 AM

… are we on the road to becoming a nation of printers?

Since there has been writing, printing (more descriptively, non-joined-up writing) has been at least if not more important than joined-up, cursive writing. I go into more detail below. Summarizing here: cursive is more a means of writing quickly than of writing well.
 

And not for nothing, if kids don't learn how to write in cursive, will they have the ability to read the cursive writings of previous generations? How will that ultimately affect the knowledge base?

I’d be curious to see the results of a study of this question, but am nearly certain the answer is that people who can read a given language can read any legible writing in it, regardless of whether handwritten in a joined-up or non-joined-up style (more about this below). It’s been shown that we have an amazing ability to correctly perceive written words even when many of the letters in them are intentionally removed, rearranged, or changed – our visual perception system seems “hardwired” to overcome reading difficulties.

The greatest risk of being unable to read old writing, I think is language drift. For example, consider this text, written by Thomas Hoccleve around 1412:
Chaucer_Hoccleve.gif
The writing is non-joined-up, but I would find it no harder to understand if it were joined-up. Recognizing the letters is not what makes it hard to read – the change in language – words, spelling, syntax, etc. – is.

IMHO, joined-up writing should never have been taught as a required subject in public schools. That it was, and in some places still is, is due to education theory, not practical consideration about effective communication. I think it is primarily a social filter in the sense described in Theodore Roszak’s 1969 The Making of a Counter Culture – a mechanism of sorting students into vaguely defined “good” and “bad” catagories. Based on lots of anecdotes, I believe this particular filter, in the US since 1950, has been more harmful than helpful.

I think joined-up writing should be taught as an elective visual art subject, combined with a sound introduction to the history, theory, and technology of lettering, writing, and mechanical and printing.

The subject of teaching cursive is illuminated by considering the practical technical reasons that cursive was invented, the history of its use, general history, and the history of education.[/b]

Let’s consider the practical, technological mechanics of cursive
Cursive (or, more descriptively, joined-up writing) was invented to accommodate writing with quill pens, which wear out more quickly and risk splattering ink when they are lifted. These problems can be avoided by writing carefully and slowly, and more frequently sharpening your quill with a knife, as hundreds of beautiful, slowly written medieval manuscripts, which have non-joined letters, show. So a major driver for joined-up writing is not only writing instrument technology, but a need to write quickly. The capacity to write quickly, in turn, requires an ample, affordable supply of writing medium, such as wood pulp paper rather than more durable and long-lasting, vellum or parchment, which is made of animal skin, or rag paper. Once these are available, it becomes practical to write not just expensive, ceremonial manuscripts and important records, but routine communication – letters, correspondence, and IMHO more importantly, ample “notes to yourself”. This occurred about 1850-1900. For a skilled intellectual elite, it occurred much earlier, about 1450, using plant fiber (hemp, flax, cotton) rag.

This technological history, and a non-systematic perusal of old non-ceremonial handwritten documents, leads me to conclude that joined-up writing wasn’t invented as “finished” writing form intended for widely shared documents, but a practical, fast-but-ugly form. As best I can tell, people who wrote a lot each developed their own, personal style – consider, for example, this ca 1700 sample of Isaac Newton (writing in Latin)
isaac-newton-s-handwritten-solution-of-t
and this of his contemporary and correspondent, Gottfried Liebniz
201112242250-ak6309-cambridge.jpg

Now let’s consider some general history
The industrial revolution occurred about 1760 – 1840. The means of production of commodities necessary for survival and comfort – cloths, tools, housing, food, etc. – changed radically, from distributed, small-scale craft work, to increasingly efficient large-scale work in centralized factories and warehouses. This centralization and efficiency production required much more and more skilled accounting than its predecessor, which required a lot more people – “white collar” accountants – writing. Not only did members of this growing , industrialized profession need to write fast, they needed to write legibly, which required standardization of their writing style. From this need sprang manuals and schools prescribing uniform styles of penmanship.

In the US ca 1840, Spencerian script became the defacto standard. By the 1860s, if had made its way from clerical schools to US public schools. It’s an ornate-looking, featuring lots of big swooping curls. The 746px-Coca-Cola_logo_svg.png logo uses it.

Ca 1891, a simplified cursive script was developed by Charles Zaner and Emler Blosner, and promoted in penmanship colleges and by the company they founded. This was the method I was taught in West Virginia public schools in the late 1960s, and the style I use, exaggerated, for my signature.

By the mid 1800s, typwriters of various as yet non-standardized designs already outperformed skilled handwriting in speed, being capable of over 100 words/minute vs. a max of about 30 for handwriting. By the 1870s, they were replacing handwriting in many business niches. The QWERTY keyboard, the shift key, and visible “front striking” keys all appear in this decade. By 1900, typewriters are common in business, increasing replacing handwriting.

When I learned Zaner-Blosner cursive, in the 1960s, typewriters were widely available in public schools, libraries, and private homes. To the consternation of my teachers, I much preferred typing to handwriting, and would use it whenever given the option. My penmanship was mediocre. As soon as I was permitted, which in my school system was the 7th grade, in 1973, I stopped using joined-up writing, and resumed block printing, largely because it more resembled the typewritten text I preferred. At the same time, I had the good fortune to enter a good, very self-structured public school art program, taught by an excellent teacher. In that program, I was introduced to (in a required class) basic ideas, and (in elective subsequent elective classes) learned to write with a Speedball pen, make and use a wood and quill pen, and print text using movable type and hand=carved wood printing blocks. I learned vastly more from these classes than my required Zaner-Blosner system-based penmanship classes.

Sadly, art programs like the one I had the good fortune to enjoy are often the first to be cut to reduce the public education cost. Such decisions are, I think, shortsighted and mistaken. Learning a specific technology, be it 19th century business penmanship or early 21st century keyboarding, is IMHO far less valuable than learning about history and technology in general. The latter prepares student to adapt to whatever their future lives demand.

I believe my affection for typing – which I was never taught in my 1966-1975 public school time – contributed to my enthusiasm to learn all I could computers, which became the object of my profession. Had I focused on the subjects and disciplines I was instructed to, I likely would have, like many “good” students I’ve known, found the computer teletypes I first laid hands on awkward and intimidating. My experience struggling to fix mangled Speedball nibs and gouge mirror-image lettering into a faintly graphite-marked wood block was, I think, far more useful to me than having learned cursive.

#17 Eclogite

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Posted 09 June 2014 - 03:05 AM

Craig, your detailed, thoroughly researched, thoughtful, well written posts are a challenge to those of us who are inherently lazy.

 

I am minded, therefore, to relate a story about a lad I used to work with when I too was in my late teens. He was not exactly a diamond in the rough, the diamond part being largely missing, but he did have a sharp, street-wise mind. I taught him to play chess and something about constructing logical arguments.

 

I ran across him four years later and after the usual opening exchanges he confided in me as follows: "You know how you used to tell me about the correct way to argue. Well I tried that for a while. I would listen to what they had to say, then lay out my own opinion clearly and carefully, offering up evidence to support my case. But I didn't really get much satisfaction that way, so now if somone disagrees with me I just hit them."

 

Today I understand how he felt. :slingshot: