Friday, January 24, 2014

Cursive Writing

They aren't teaching it anymore. I find that fact to be extremely upsetting. And no, I don't think I'm over-reacting. I am merely reporting another tear in the fabric of the cosmos, an earthquake in the course of civilization.  

How will my grandchildren sign their job applications, their loan documents, their love letters?  Will we revert back to the X?  Printing does not lend itself to flourishes, although Daddooooo did manage to embellish his otherwise illegible scrawl with the most beautiful g's imaginable.  They looked just like the ones this keyboard is sending to you.  

Those gardening tools I mentioned yesterday are still talking to me, it seems. My paternal unit is as upset as I am.

Some grown ups do not use cursive. G'ma was one of them.  Her printing was small and even and precise, just as one would expect of a woman trained as a kindergarten teacher.  Almost til the end of her life, that handwriting was a constant.  When the pen began to waver, when her letters began to sprawl across the bottom of the birthday cards, I was reminded that she was failing. Still, she was able to sign her name, because the pen didn't leave the paper quite as often.  She didn't lose track of where she was or where she was going.  The individual impressions of printing left her long before cursive's connectedness.

There's more to my annoyance than the signature. There's a cultural piece that's being ignored, as well. Learning cursive was a step taken along the road to becoming a grown-up.  Kids in the younger grades used pencils, fat ones in kindergarten and first, thinner ones at the end of first and all through second. Ink pens were not permitted until the third grade, when, in addition to being trusted to write something which could not be erased, we were initiated into the adult world of writing.

The alphabet was back on the classroom wall, only this time the serifs were longer and more fluid. Capital J's looked altogether new, as did S and G. Palmer Penmanship required precision, but it was more like dancing than prancing to me.  I fell in love with the feel of the pen on the paper.  I had a myriad of writing implements, fountain pens with turquoise ink refill capsules; one of those new BIC ball-points, although some teachers didn't allow them; an ink-sipping-pen.... one that used an actual ink bottle.  I got that one because I had an old desk, one with a hole in the top right corner for the ink well.  G'ma went to Back to School Night and thought it was only right that I have the appropriate instruments.

I perfected my signature over one lonely summer.  I worked on my initials. Three letters or two?... bold or girly?.... authoritative or inviting?  Printing offered no such diversions.  Cursive could be personalized and I was just the girl for the task.  It made me happy.  I felt like a big kid, like someone on the cusp of the rest of adulthood, developing the persona with which I would be associated.  Control was an elusive thing in my childhood; I relished the opportunity to create something of my own.

I'm still signing my name the same way; my married name was just added into the style I adopted in junior high.  It's an anchor to my youth, a connection between who I was and who I thought I would become and who I am today.  How sad that we'll educate an entire generation of children who will miss that rite of passage.


  1. Thanks for the great post, Ashleigh! We think cursive is important to learn as well, for many reasons, and you mentioned several of them. We are a national committee that works to restore cursive in our schools, we have partnered with educators, psychologists, therapists, and researchers who also think it's important. We invite you to join us at the Campaign for Cursive!

    1. Who knew ?!? You are fighting the good fight... I liked you on FB.

  2. Our 3rd grader is learning cursive this year at our (Amphi district) school, and I have friends with 3rd graders in other districts who are learning it this year too. I've read several articles about how learning cursive is very good for the brain.

  3. I also lament the passing of cursive instruction, probably because I enjoyed teaching all penmanship so much during my career and admire beautiful script. It would be great to see a sample of your cursive writing.

  4. 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, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there's even an iPad app to teach how: named "Read Cursive," of course — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including 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 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, adds brain cells, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support — but when (rarely) offered, they offer citations, looking up the original research consistently proves that it was misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    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, most individualizanle signatures are the plainest — including those that are printed.
    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.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines 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

    /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

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    College Board research breakdown of SAT scores (the cursive/printing information is on page 5)

    [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

  5. We additionally lament the actual moving associated with cursive coaching, most likely simply because We loved training just about all penmanship a lot within my profession as well as appreciate stunning piece of software. It might be excellent to determine an example of the cursive composing.

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