Cursive Writing – Think Twice Before Taking It Away!


write image     Do you ever think that times are moving and changing a little too fast?  Do you love modern air-conditioning, but at the same time relish the memory of a slow moving fan and a pitcher of iced lemonade on the front porch, with neighbors stopping by for a visit?  Oh, we have certainly progressed, and few of us would want to go back, but still, we are losing too many things of value.  Technology is great and the good Lord knows we have come a long way. We have digital this and digital that, we have remote this and remote that. I even have a security system that I can view my house from half way around the world on my smart phone! But! There is a down side. The same thing that makes life easier also makes us less active, and, in some cases, dumber. Example: That remote control makes us more likely to be couch potatoes, and that square root button on the calculator does the job for us. I seriously doubt if one out of ten people can still manually do a square root calculation on a five digit number. We touch a button and have beautiful flaming logs in the fireplace! No more chopping wood, carrying coal, or, with E Mail, even trudging to the Post Office to mail a letter. With computers, i-pads, smart phones, etc., what was science fiction a few years ago is today’s reality.

But! Now they are talking about doing away with cursive writing. Teachers, please do not let that happen! ‘Common Core Standards’ seems to be a concept that is supposed to help put everybody on a more equal playing field, better prepare students for college, and produce standards that are more relevant in the 21st century.   Well, the ‘Common Core Standard’ guidelines say that teaching cursive is no longer required for English Language Arts because everybody is now into key boarding. But wait! Are there advantages of cursive writing that common core might be missing? Let’s take a look:

William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, writing for ‘Psychology Today’, says scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development.  He also says that that there is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. Another interesting observation was that cursive writing is even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter presentation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.  There is also a whole field of research called “haptics”, which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function. The findings are that cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.  There are also several studies that have shown cursive writing to be very beneficial to the dyslexic student.  One interesting blog, from ‘The School of Dyslexia’, emphasizes the benefits of cursive writing to the dyslexic student. Derek Rhodenizer, Vice Principle of the Heritage Academy in Ottawa, Ontario, says that cursive writing improves dynamic interplay in the brain, improves fine motor skills, and can help improve memory of the written concept. Rhodenizer, a recognized authority in the field, has considerable experience
and has a passion for working with and helping dyslexic students.

So! There appears to be a body of evidence out there that strongly suggests that keeping cursive writing is strongly beneficial to the student for many reasons.  But even, if all this academic evidence does not sway the minds of those decision makers, how about teaching cursive as an art? Whatever happened to the John Hancocks of the world who took pride in their writing? How about teaching cursive for the sheer beauty of it?  From my files (I have collected a few interesting signatures), here are some signatures that I consider artistic and beautiful as compared to those which are simply a ‘brand’:


Of all these, I would say John Hancock’s signature is the most beautiful, but Marilyn Monroe, Rembrant, Abraham Lincoln and Diane Medwid have nice signatures too.  It appears that the last three, Norbert Schenk, Martin Wienkenhoever and Barack Obama could use a little help. I am certain that no human, unless they knew beforehand, could interpret the Wienkenhoever signature.  These are more of a ‘brand’ than a legible signature.  I can still feel my third grade teacher standing over my desk at Greenbrier Grade School in Hinton, West Virginia. My teacher, Mrs. Opal Neely, was pushing me to do better with my cursive writing. That was over fifty years ago, and, although my hand writing has not improved much, I still remember her encouragement and emphasizing the importance of a nice, legible ‘hand’, as she called it. I think she was right.

Tony B. Ratliff, Sr.



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