Apparently while I wasn’t looking cursive was pronounced obsolete. I’d heard rumors for years, but assumed that educators would never allow such a reality to take hold for one overriding, undeniable reason: Fluency. Writing fluency is one of the most important keys to a child’s long-term school success.
Those who feel cursive has been rendered unnecessary argue that computer technology has replaced the need for cursive, and time in school can be better spent on other things. Really? Cursive is a free and accessible tool (unlike a laptop) which gives the writer the speed needed for increasing levels of academic work; the act of hand writing class notes is often used as a memorization tool; fluidity of handwriting allows thoughts to flow onto paper; and learning cursive is a rite of passage, which tells the young writer, “Your writing is growing up, just like you. Now you are able to write in cursive.” Kids feel proud when they graduate to cursive. Little kids can’t wait for it, and often proudly mimic cursive loops on their papers. Oh, and if they know how to sign their name in cursive they will definitely show you…many times. No doubt about it, there is joy in cursive.
Many students come to me because they don’t have writing fluency. And guess what else they don’t have? The ability to write in cursive. More frequently than ever, kids are not learning cursive in school. Even if they do, they are no longer required to use cursive as their standard classroom writing, so they continue to print. I think computers and keyboarding are great tools for writing, but cursive is a skill our kids (and future adults) still very much need in their repertoire.
1. Not all students or adults have laptops. Cursive is a tool of independently fluent writers of all levels. If you prefer writing on a laptop and you have one in class or in your business meeting, great! But we want all students to grow up with the writing fluency skills to handle high school and college lectures, as well as work meetings, even if they don’t have access to a computer. We’ve heard that education helps create a level playing field…well cursive helps create equity in skill to access that education.
2. Cursive writing gives the fluency needed for academic mastery: This summer I worked with an advanced student who is entering high school. One of the tasks we were preparing her for was taking and organizing notes. She told me she felt like she had a hard time keeping up with lecture note taking. Her handwriting was beautiful, but I noticed she didn’t use cursive. Although she learned it in school, her teachers never required her to use it, so it didn’t integrate. Now she finds she doesn’t always have the writing speed she needs in the classroom. How many kids find themselves unnecessarily put at this disadvantage?
3. The fluidity of cursive helps the thought process flow: We’ve all experienced feeling stuck in our writing. Oftentimes the act of writing, even nonsense or repetition, helps free the writing process up. Remember this: “I don’t know what to write…I don’t know what to write…Peter hoped no one would ask him how the game went….” Ah, there we go…unstuck. It is my experience that the fluidity of creating cursive letters allows for fluidity of thinking. For me, the loopier the handwriting, the more ease of thought. The slower one writes, the harder it is to get unstuck. It’s like being in a writing ditch with your tires rolling in the mud. One of the reasons I love cursive is because intrinsically it brings fluidity, flow, and movement into the writing and thinking process.
I know not everyone is as enamored of cursive as I am, and that’s fine. And for kids with dysgraphia, keyboarding is the best possible mode to attain writing fluency. How we write is not as important as having what it takes to get the job done. And from what I see, cursive should still be a tool in the toolbox.
As far as I’m concerned there is only one bright side to this whole cursive debacle. I’ve always wanted to know a secret code, and now it turns out I do. It’s just that I always imagined the code would look something like E#$% @@%$ *&+_!~ $#?>
as opposed to “I bet you can’t tell what I wrote.”
by Ivy Sandz