Should We Teach Cursive In School?

This has been a controversial topic for a while. And I thought we had put this matter to rest. But across my social media feed I still see arguments and it is time I simply wrote something out. This way I won’t have to repeat my self on each retort and can simply post this link.

Arguments:

Cementing knowledge by writing:

This is one I hear a lot of, that forming the letters with your hands some how causes you to remember the information better.
If this was the case, then would it not be even better to mold them out of clay then to write the? And how does writing in cursive some how make you remember better then printing or writing in short hand – what magic in this English cursive writing that some how has rocketed those, globally, few people into memory stardom – and how jealous must the Chinese, or Japanese, be given that their kids are not thought cursive writing?
The whole idea that cursive is magic in this regard is ridicules – the fact is this memory boost comes from re-encoding – the form does not matter. It is funny because if you ask a computer programmer the syntax for some boiler plate piece of code goes they will not write it! But they will start miming the movements of their hands on a keyboard and mouse as they recall it. Cursive is nothing special in this regard

It helps with spelling

Again, there is no proof in that cursive has anything to do with the effect..
All the studies say it is purely a matter of re-encoding the information and route practice. Be it printing, cursive, or typing.

Our hands should be multilingual:

This was a direct quote from an article published by the Federalist on the topic and using some work by Dr. Virginia Berniger to justify it. The argument goes writing in different characters activates different sections of the brain and aids in cognitive development. Why not use that time to teach the kids to be truly multilingual? learn Mandarin or Cantonese or Korean – And learn how to write them. They would certainly be more usefully he learning cursive or Latin – since both are dead and Chinese is not.

It is a faster:

Actually, no. Typing is the faster.
Most people can type 30 words per minute with very little effort. With a margin of practice, you can double that. And if you work on it for as much as kids work on had writing you can perhaps achieve 120WPM – although I have to admit getting much above that is very difficult.
However, in contrast writing is painfully slow. Most people write cursive around 40 characters a minute. The absolute fastest of us do 120 characters a minuet, again characters, not words. And this can not be done for hours on end without significant pain. Of coerce, if they were to give up cursive, and move to something performance driven, like shorthand, those same dedicated people could bump that to 300 words per minuet.

It helps with Dyslexia:

This one offends me, not only is it based on bad science but dyslexia are a very real and debilitating problem. I can tell you, as some one who suffers from it, I have almost no issue reading printed word, preferably in a fixed width serif font.
But cursive? It is certainly not easier to read. Perhaps it may have been easier to write as a child – I have no recollection if it being easier. However, it is in no way easier then typing. Don’t believe me? Look at the research put out by the association for people with dyslexia.

But what about historic documents!

I have never heard anyone say this that has actually had to do primary research on historical documents. Why? Because they are not easy to read, even if you know cursive. Hand writing is almost universally atrocious, the documents are not in the best condition, the language has shifted, etc. The point I am trying to make is you need to put effort into it Here is an example of something PRINTED http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/external/coffee-tl.jpg
Now here is something hand written with impeccable penmanship https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/c2/4e/5e/c24e5e5212bf1e24fd5676920a752f47.jpg
This one is also extremely legible http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/large126714.html
And you know what – give this to a kid who has never seen cursive with a primmer and after a few weeks they can read it to you just as easily as any one else.
All of this is in English – a rear treat when doing research
But how many kids in our classrooms today are going to grow up to be historians and read original works that have not been scanned, translated into digital text, and put up on the web. Ask most 30 year olds to day if they have ever gone to a library and pulled up a copy of a document from the 1600’s and had to read it for some reason?
And if this is the case – why are we not teaching shorthand so kids can read those documents? Or teaching English from before the great vowel shift so kids can understand those documents? Because very very few people need that specialized knowledge. Are you shocked I know I’m not.
(short hand example http://www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WWI-diary.jpg)

It keeps our brains active in old age

I kid you not – one of the major arguments of wasting time teaching a 2nd grader to write in cursive is so they will have active minds in their old age. using chopsticks and painting does the same thing – no need to learn cursive. Something they won’t likely use in 80 years anyway.

You need it for your job:

These days typing and the ability to use computers is the new literacy, without these skills it is very difficult to remain employed. Cursive? Not so much

There are simply NO jobs that require cursive writing – well almost no jobs… If you teach cursive, such as a grade school teacher, or are a professional calligrapher, or an administrative assistance for some really old guy who still writes in cursive all day, then yes. Your job will require you to read cursive, maybe even write it. I bet you could find perhaps a half dozen jobs in the US paying over $100K per year that require cursive.
Rounding, 0.00% of all US Jobs paying 100K/year or more require cursive handwriting. While nearly 20% of all US jobs making over 100K / year require programming experience. The cost is the same to teach our children a useful skill, or a useless one. Which will it be?

 

Conclusion:

It is simply a waste of time, like teaching kids how to use a slid ruler in order to perform log functions. Did you need to learn how to use a slid rule in high school? No? Then shut up you are too young to be giving the “Back in my day” speech to anyone!
Kids speed over 200 hours learning cursive writing. In 200 hours we could be teaching more math, more science, more logic, engendering and technology skills, how to program, serious home economics and other life skills – like how to manage money and invest! I think if we took 200 hours and thought kid’s serious macro and micro economics our country would be far better off then teaching them cursive hand writing.
Let us face it – very few six figure salaries are held by people who write by hand all day. Most are held by people who type all day.
If you are under 50 and you want to make a decent living and write by hand you need to be a doctor, particularly one with a nurse who translates your hand written into typed notes latter. 10 years ago I said Doctor or lawyer, but now days you are not going to make partner in a decent law firm if cursive is your primary form of written communication.

There is no reason our kids should have to learn writing, a difficult and painful process, twice. And if you are going to pick on, pick print. It is in every book, news paper (remember those?), and web page.

So why the outrage?

So what is the real reason people are upset over the cut of cursive from the curriculum? Something is different then when they were kids and that both scares and angers them. Much like if Pluto is a planet or not.

But this is one old American’s opinion. If you, you want to see what our counterparts across the pond think please read this article by Philip Ball 😉

Curse of cursive handwriting