Cursive Writing - Is it a lost art?
History of Cursive Writing
Cursive writing is also referred to as script. Do you remember it? Can you "write" your name? Sadly, there are many children and adults today who cannot write their signature, they can print it but they can't write it. Actually there are some places where cursive writing is no longer taught in school! The place where once we were praised for our good penmanship (cursive writing).
When speaking of signatures, what is the most famous to come to mind? Most people will answer John Hancock's. John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence spurred sayings like, "Put your John Hancock here".
In the Middle Ages many monks spent their lives transcribing or copying famous books into script, books like the Bible. These transcriptions led to libraries of books where some were preserved for centuries.
Different religious orders used different forms of script, spacing, and punctuation. Through the centuries the types of script evolved, many can be seen in the selection of fonts you see in your word processing programs. In the early United States, penmen took the place of monks and copied documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
In the 1800's Platt Rogers Spencer tried to make penmanship more uniform and even wrote a textbook to be used in schools. Though it was used in the original Coca-Cola signature it was probably too ornate for the average person. By mid-century, Austin Norman Palmer came up with a more uniform penmanship. It was known as the Palmer method and taught for years to come. Children practicing pages of circles and loops in order to help them learn to write and cursive was a classroom staple in the second through fourth grades in elementary school. In the 1950s the Palmer Method gave way to the simpler Zaner-Bloser Method.
John Hancock Signature
Students taking notes
Benefits of Cursive Writing
- It helps discipline the mind
- It stimulates the brain
- It is an art form
- It is a way of identifying people as no two people write alike
- It is a basic skill that can improve with practice
- It can help with critical thinking
- It is faster than printing
- Documents such as letters, are less personalized when not written
- Without a knowledge of cursive, students will not be able to read historical documents
- It is helpful for children with dyslexia because the pen moves from left to right
- You won't get autographs from famous people without cursive writing
- Learning cursive can help with reading and differentiating letters
- It helps recognize spelling patterns
To those of you who are a bit older, writing in cursive comes naturally. Cursive lettering was part of your curriculum when you were in elementary school and it most likely stayed with you forever. Even now there are free cursive writing sheets to help learn how to write cursive, but, we are still faced with it's demise.
So, you're wondering why I am writing this and why I am making such a fuss. After all, everyone's got a computer or cellphone or both, so why cursive? We won't need to sign our names you say, technology will do away with that with eyeball recognition or thumbprint software. Things are electronic. Think how lucky your local Pharmacist is, he probably gets prescriptions by email directly from your doctor.
What about legal documents? Wills and Deeds, won't they still need a signature? Though I hate to use this as an example, what about Divorce Papers? It seems to me there is still a need for signatures and as long as there is a need for signatures there is a need for cursive writing.
William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D. states in Psychology Today, "The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument."
Dr. Kathy Hawks, professor of Education at Concord University says, "Eliminating cursive writing in public schools will make our children more illiterate. If they cannot write in cursive, they cannot read in cursive. Our goal should be to do everything in our power to empower our children to be globally literate. They should learn foreign languages. Why would we not teach them cursive when it is so readily available?”
Sheila Lowe, president of American Handwriting Analysis Foundation stated, “The United States Supreme Court has likened handwriting to facial expression, tone of voice, and body language, all expressive gestures. By being in physical touch with the writing instrument on the page, the writer is literally in touch with and processes emotions in a way that keyboarding cannot.”
These are just a few examples of the proponents of cursive writing but I believe they make very good points supporting cursive writing. Cursive is more than a dying art, it is a skill that ties together critical components of learning according to the Association of American Educators. This same association says many claim cursive is an important part of our history. Think about it, what do you do when the computer crashes and you have no other means of communication?
US Declaration of Independence
The Future of Cursive Writing
The future of cursive writing is looking rather bleak. It is being omitted from many states' Common Core Standards. According to a New York Times Opinion Page, "New pubic school curriculum standards in the U.S. do not require the teaching of cursive." Forty-five states have adopted these Common Core Standards.
However, states can of course continue to teach cursive if they want to. California, Georgia, North Carolina, and Massachusetts are still requiring that cursive be taught. Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii are leaving it up to individual school districts. Utah is still studying the issue and hasn't made a decision either way. Indiana has moved it out of the curriculum and then back in.
It is obvious no definitive decision has really been made in spite of the Common Core Standards. Think about it for a minute. How many people are identified by their signature or their handwriting? What about the teachers that say teaching cursive helps students to concentrate? How about the students or others, who can write faster than they can type? Or those who can think better when they write something down, not when they type it on the computer?
Well, again, its obvious feelings about cursive are mixed. As you can probably tell, mine aren't. I believe we should continue to teach cursive for so many reasons. It is a finer skill that even a slower student can revel in. The debate is far from over and you can find tons of articles both for and against cursive writing.
I'd love to know what you think. Please leave a comment letting me know your opinions on the subject.
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