Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, December 13, 2013

Common Core Omits Cursive Writing

Teaching public school students to write instead of print, along with penmanship, has been going out of fashion in public schools for several years. The adoption of Common Core standards will hasten the demise of cursive writing because it is not one of the standards that students will be taught or tested on. If a school wants to teach cursive writing anyway, there is nothing to stop the school from doing that, but the authors of national Common Core standards obviously think handwriting is not important and students should spend their time learning how to use a computer or iPad keyboard instead.

Many parents disagree with this policy. Many experts believe handwriting is important because it engages the brain in important ways that selecting letters on a keyboard does not. Research shows that the hand-brain relationship is important for children. The sequential strokes required to form letters and words activates regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and memory. The mental manipulation of that transforms formulas, represents the brain’s recognition of patterns. When the facts are processed in writing, there is apparently something really important about manually manipulating words on a page. Researchers have found that practice with writing letters can improve idea composition and expression, activate the brain, and aid fin motor-skill development.

Two generations ago, 95% of Americans used handwriting. Not anymore. Yet the skills of handwriting remain important to develop a child’s memory, focus, attention, sequencing, estimation, patience, and creativity. I urge schools to continue to teach cursive writing even though Common Core standards do not require it. If they don’t learn cursive writing, they won’t be able to read helpful letters from their grandmothers.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

Further Reading: Common Core


KateGladstone said...

Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

Reading cursive matters — and can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes: even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (There's even an iPad app to teach how: named "Read Cursive": http://appstore.com/readcursive .) We must teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as some handwriting style that's actually typical of effective handwriters.

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. Why, then, exalt cursive?

Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.For instance: the study most often cited as justifying cursive ("Neural Correlates of Handwriting" by Dr.. Karin Hsrman-James at Indiana University) did not include cursive; it compared print-writing with keyboarding. This has not saved it from being misrepresented — including, at least once, by a legislator summarizing the study in her testimony under oath — as a study of print-writing versus cursive. (Details on the legislative misrepresentation are available from me on request.)

What about signatures? 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 — including those that are written in print. 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 writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, a few months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

Requiring cursive in order to preserve handwriting resembles requiring stovepipe hats and crinolines in order to preserve the art of tailoring.


Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

/1/ 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

/2/ 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

Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos'by a colleague —




[AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest

Anonymous said...

Where did people get the idea (no, I think I can guess) that "Cursive" is the *only* form of script writing? It's only one form out of many, and far from the best of them. The Mayflower Compact was penned in Italic, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written in Copperplate, and all those documents are perfectly readable today. Cursive, on the other hand, has a nasty tendency to degenerate into that illegible scribble for which doctors are notorious (but not alone!). That illegibility has caused thousands of deaths from "medical error", as any nurse or pharmacist can tell you. Yes, teach penmanship, but choose a form like Italic -- which is far clearer, easier to learn, quicker to teach, and keeps its legibility long after the student has left school. If only for all the lives it has cost us, Cursive deserves to die!

Nan Jay Barchowsky said...

Every reason Ms. Schlafly gives for handwriting instruction is valid except for reading Granny's letters. I heartily endorse Anonymous' comment.

The goal for handwriting instruction should be legible writing at age appropriate speed. The goal is brought down by a huge misunderstanding in the majority of public schools in the United States.
Many educators fail to stop and think about the fact that for about three years children learn to form print-like letters, writing them from top-to-bottom. Shapes and directionality of strokes are implanted in motor memory.

Then in either second or third grade the motor memory for forming letters is turned upside down! The strokes that form letters change sequence and direction for the sort of cursive that is commonly known. It is difficult for many students. Instruction time is limited, not enough to turn around that earlier motor memory that was implanted in the brain for 3 or more years.

Over time more educators may turn to the practical solution, italic. The beginner alphabet is easily formed and almost automatically evolves into a legible, fluent cursive. Italic, is used in some USA schools and in other countries, notably Finland, the country with top educational rating globally. Have a look at www.bfhhandwriting.com

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