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Should technology push out cursive writing instruction?

More and more states are opting to drop the teaching of cursive writing because of technological advancements. What do you think?

Indiana just became the most recent state to no longer require schools to teach cursive writing. Instead they will require them to teach keyboarding in elementary schools.

As with any kind of decision like this, there are supporters and detractors. The supporters say that it's a progressive movement and that technology has made it so that cursive writing skills are no longer needed. They argue that it's a waste of time teaching it.

The detractors say that when children don't learn cursive writing that they will be unable to read handwritten notes from elders or in historical documents.

When I do take pen to paper, my own cursive writing is a hybrid of print letters and cursive because it's faster.  I prefer keying because it lets me get my thoughts down before they flee my head. Also, I remember when I was in school, student essays were judged more on the neatness than the idea contained therein, which is not exactly fair.

However, I still kind of hate the idea of kids growing up not being able to write cursively. What do you think?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

500 comments
LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Can't believe this debate is still going. Too lazy to read all of it yet. But I did notice something. Several posters mentioned that their children/grandchildren couldn't write cursively. It was my understanding we haven't yet dropped cursive. So it seems that the schools are already not teaching cursive effectively. Or should that be the schools are teaching cursive ineffectively. So it seems we are debating whether the schools should continue to not teach something effectively or not. After all they could pick another subject to not teach effectively. Like math or science.

oldthom
oldthom

I read through many of the responses here on this site, as well as others, and it is painfully clear many simply don't see themselves in a declining state - I doubt many in Rome felt it in the early centuries after Christ, not until the hordes chipping away at the empire edges finally sacked Rome starting with the Gauls in the late 4th century. By then it was too late to solve the problems plaguing the empire. I wonder if anyone realizes that we are in the midst of such a decline here in America? So many here have given their opinions based their own emotions and personal views, I wonder, after having bothered to dig into the myriad of documents, studies and actual cases, if you would change your opinion once you were more informed? The Hoover Institute , through it's series, "Our Schools and our Future" (now a book and helped to spawn Education Next - educationnext.org), stated the following about 8 years ago, "Do we care [that we are dead last on the list of 20 highest-income countries participating in a world-wide literacy test]? Economists tell us that human capital is more important than physical capital for long-term economic development. Weak educational systems won???t ruin the country overnight, but prolonged incompetence will eventually prove consequential." Handwriting has been shown to be a valuable part of the human capital as an investment in the education of our youth. Removing handwriting is just one more chip off the whole, perhaps not a critical one, but certainly an integral one. I urge all to look at the big picture, consider and take into account the long-term not just the short-term results of our decisions. "Our decisions" ... are they really ours? "We the people ..." are we actually making those decisions? One need only read through the CCSS Initiative to see where we are headed: a watered down, lowest common denominator, core of standards dictated to us by a failing government and their corporate/special interest backers. Proof that in reality we are more concerned about physical capital than human capital. Evidence that our Fall is right around the corner if "We" do not start speaking up, not as individual collectives or single-purpose/single-minded groups, but as a "people".

elder65
elder65

It would be sad to think future Americans could visit the National Archives and see the Declaration of Independence and not be able to read it.

ttwelve
ttwelve

Not everyone can become an artist of reknown. Most anyone can learn to manipulate the hand to produce a line which in it's most elaborate form, is in fact art. Mentioned in other comments is "eye hand coordination" and what I suggest surpasses the limited scope implied by that concept. Learning the tactile even seductive skill of manifesting, bringing to the world that which hides inside of each of us alters the brain's construction in subtle yet far reaching ways, preparing us for what we will become. Our ability to speak, think and concieve ideas requires every tool we can provide ourselves. I still derive pleasure when my cursive seems to express internal stability as it flows on to the paper - a representation of me.

zhong.ly
zhong.ly

Everyone has his own handwriting, why one must leave his own style and use the keyboard to type the same character...

Tumbleweed_Biff
Tumbleweed_Biff

As techy as the world is becoming, I expect it will be a long time before paper goes away. Not only does cursive give you the ability to write, but it gives you the ability to write well. Learning cursive helps develop motor skills in a way that keyboarding never will. How many of you have received a love letter written on a typewriter? Sure, you may have gotten some romantic emails, but admit it, they were probably a lot more like sexting, weren't they. But a letter, something you get to hold in your hand, something that someone thought over carefully and spent time crafting ... how much more do those mean to you than those emails? What does the beauty of the cursive writing convey to you? Someone mentioned earlier that 50 years ago, schools stopped teaching Greek and Latin, and what have we missed as a result? Hmm, well, I studied Greek roots and such as part of a medical terminology class. As a result, a couple of years later, it came in very helpful when I was taking anatomy and physiology in college. I always wished I had a chance to learn Latin, it would have come in handy on many occasions, particularly when reading a lot of science fiction. It would have also been helpful with most of he science learning I did. Why? American English is a pretty lousy language for helping to develop logical thought. Latin and Greek, however, are very helpful with thinking logically, rationally, in a way most of our schooling doesn't. Learning to think is important even as is developing and practicing fine motor skills. As we dumb down our educational standards, we limit the growth potential of our children and we limit their future.

paul.ob.tech
paul.ob.tech

These were also dropped only 50 years ago because..... and has it really impacted on most peoples lives?

Jessie
Jessie

I kid you not, my kids did not get a SCIENCE class last year because their school was too busy preparing them for the state aptitude testing. My kids were in kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and a junior in HS last year. They were taught to memorize only those things they would need on the test and NOTHING about the how and why of any of it! At the end of the year, my elementary kids had a field trip to a rock quarry for their one tiny nod to science. I swear, I'm going to start home-schooling as soon as I have the money for either myself or my husband to stay at home and do it.

peter.lyons
peter.lyons

For a long time all my texts & emails were sent on my Sony Ericsson P series phones by writing them on screen, then Symbian, or was it Nokia?. decided that this feature was to be denied to European markets, guess who won't be buying an E9 when it appears?

tbostwick
tbostwick

No wonder we can't keep up with the rest of the world - we've slowly allowed "ideas" in technology to replace communication as human beings. WOW! I remember when I was in school and we were REQUIRED to have both cursive writing AND keyboard class (at least 2 years of it). This harkens back to the day when Latin/Greek were required - and many say that started the decline of basic understanding of our language. In education circles - if kids can't learn by writing, reading and understanding what they read/write - doing it solely on a keyboard WON'T produce the desired results. Sounds like a last ditch effort by the creators of NCLB to get their ignorant claws into something else. Oh - BTW - there's PLENTY of studies done in many countries that indicate this is a BAD idea, however, as we good ole ignorant Americans do - we'll learn the hard way, as we do with everything else and LOVE this trend - until perhaps, we're about 100th in the world in every category under the educational sun and then perhaps someone will say - well, we need to get back to basics.

nustada
nustada

Cursive is a PITA to read. It strikes me as a sign of arrogance when people use it for anything other than personal notes and rough dafts. Doctors when using it should be charged with negligent manslaughter. Kids have a limited time frames where there brains optimally absorb information. That time could be spent teaching something that is nothing more than an exercise in self absorbed narcasism. If you want them to learn hand eye coordination, get them a guitar or a hockey stick and some roller blades.

mmcguire
mmcguire

Let us NEVER forget that some of the MOST important historical documents in the world are written in cursive. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Us_declaration_independence.jpg Look at the reasons why these educators want this skill removed, then look at it again. Do you really want your children not to be able to read these documents in their original form? Cursive should not only be essential, it should be required. When we stop teaching something, the skill becomes lost forever. (INSERT THOUSANDS OF EXAMPLES HERE). If not in English, then at least in American History, If not there, then perhaps in Art. Don't let political clowns try to dictate to you what you should and shouldn't learn. Someone also tried that in WWII,.....what was his name again??? Oh yeah,..guess what, his side lost.

cynthia.ryan
cynthia.ryan

It is hard enough for professionals to build an ergonomic space for typing. Are all the elementary schools in Indiana goind to invest in the correct furniture and equipment? I know this does not address the cursive issue. But maybe one that is more important - has anyone really thought this idea through?

1Cat2Many
1Cat2Many

Cursive is easier to write than printing, therefore my handwritten notes are in cursive. I developed a very efficient style of cursive in college to make note taking easier. I've also been touch typing for 30+ years. I don't view it as one versus the other, they're both tools in my arsenal. Sometimes I even print although I find it laborious. Also there is something to be said for the experience of pen or pencil on paper, and being released from having to write in sentences or even words.

hbagonza
hbagonza

cursive writing is so instrumental to child in elementary stage of education.

Ninja1507
Ninja1507

I was taught both in elementary school, and both are an asset. Cursive is a dying art, but I'd still like my kids to know it.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Writing like in books is slow, simply because you have to move your pen up and down on the paper to separate the glyphs (this is demonstrated by stenography, which is even faster, but always cursive). If you only know book stripts, you will have difficulties for fast writing, notably when taking notes. You need to be able to tae not on paper, not just on a keyboard. You need to be able to write your composition in exames where computers are not allowed. You need to be able to write in various circumstances where you don't have a computer, and do it fast enough so that it won't interrupt too much your other activities, or just to be able to follow an ongoing discussion or course that won't wait for you. This does not mean that the cursive style that is being taught is the best one. First, handwriting can use lots of abbreviations. Second, it would be beneficial to learn effective stenography (such as Duploy?? stenography), if you are a student. Of course stenography is now deprecatd in most job positions, because we can use audio/video recorders, and take time to recompose the text later on a computer. But this is dual work. All we need is a way to handwrite in a fast cursive way (stenography or not) and in a style that can be reread by someone else if needed. For that we still need wellknown conventions on cursive styles. Note: most users have their own cursive style. Personnally my cursive style looks very much like book printing in its letter forms, instead of the old French traditional letter forms: there are less curls, legs and arms are shorter, and it is more or less based on Helvetica, without any serif. I have learned this style myself when I was a child, because it was very readable even by someone else. I have stopped using the cursive style, taught in the first two years of primary school, very early during the last two years of primary school (at that time, my curisve style was much more like book than today's style which is even more simplified, notably for capitals). My simplified cursive style has definitelity helped me at school, and even more later in superior courses, exams, and then in my professional life (even if I use a computer almost all time, I still use handwriting in parallel for taking lots of notes). But if I had known a stenography method, I would have used it very early, to save me lots of efforts when taking notes in courses.

RG Bargy
RG Bargy

Back in the day - maybe about 150 years ago, most people could neither read nor write. Now - according to this - people may be able to read and maybe won't be able to write other than with a keyboard. Written signatures (using cursive writing) provide a unique identifier for us. Anything that moves away from that is a gift for fraudsters and crooks.

benoddo
benoddo

are modern technologies dependent upon multiple layers of technology in order to function. One of which is electricity which is dependent upon another unsustainable technology, fossil fuels. I write this now but as I do, tons of carbon are being emitted into the air we breathe. I can also write this on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil. This older technology existed before Edison or Tesla. Actually all newer technologies could not have evolved had it not been for the pen and paper.

littlepitcher
littlepitcher

Many banks now take a thumbprint as a verification of identity, and digital signatures are available with subscription. Calligraphy is an elective. Printing is a necessity. Bad cursive is an impediment to communication and to productivity--just ask any nurse, pharmacist, or unit secretary who has been party to a group deciphering of doctor's orders. The graveyards are full of victims of cursive handwriting. Keyboarding (and use of a touch screen) should assist in teaching fine motor skills. Math, spelling, and grammar teach precision. I always preferred writing cursive to print, but I recognize that cursive is obsolete, and blessedly so.

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

The skill has two points, the one is cultural and the other is mechanical. A letter written in cursive handwriting is is something beautiful. That's the cultural part. Being able to control your own hand for the smooth movement cursive writing needs is the mechanical part. The mechanical part helps us to do fine work precisely. That is in sharp contrast to "punching" characters on a keyboard. It amazes me why it is called "punching". Are we boxers?

bigbillh
bigbillh

How far down the scale are we going to allow our children to be taught? Even Forest Gump could read and write cursive.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

and where the argument for block breaks down. What ever handwriting style you now have, try to change it and write naturally.... Never met anyone who is effective at cursive, not be able to do block, the other way round.... It's not a question of not teaching cursive, it's one of precluding it...

bill.andersen
bill.andersen

Just another part of the "Dumbing Down" in education. They want zombies who will do their bidding and not know enough to talk back, which is where we are heading if we don't stop this nonsense now. Of course cursive writing should be kept, but with it should be stronger emphasis on spelling. I must admit, so much of what I read on here shows terrible spelling and from that obviously no understanding of the meaning of many words. I think it is imperative that both teaching standards and education in general are lifted, not lowered any further. Sometimes its like reading a letter from a dyslexic when I read the posts on here. There's another bone of contention, what a word to invent for people who suffer from word blindness....Dyslexia. Can you imagine asking a dyslexic what he suffers from? "What do you suffer from?" Answer: "Dysblubblyub!" lol

techrepublic
techrepublic

I read on another site on the same topic that teachers are using cursive instead of printing for students with dyslexia. Both printing and typing can cause confusion between letters, such as b & d or p & q, but in cursive no letter is a mirror of another and therefore subject to much less confusion. Having all students learn cursive would help those diagnosed with dyslexia and those on the cusp, but not showing detrimental problems as well..

chris_c_knowles
chris_c_knowles

I'm from the UK so its not really my business, other than to say I was shocked to even see the subject raised. For what its worth I feel cursive writing is part of who you are if you've been lucky enough in this world to receive an education. I was much relieved to see that the vast majority of the people who voted agree it should continue to be taught. Don't let them get away with it.

guineapig
guineapig

Anyone who has ever fiddled around with fonts knows the impact of "style" on the message. Cursive writing is the same; it adds a layer of self-expression to the message, much as a beautiful grafitti wall can change the way you feel about the everyday words it contains, or reading the Declaration of Independence in its original script can. It is the repressive teaching of 'one style only' that makes cursive writing tedious and boring. By presenting different styles, and encouraging children to try using such in their written work, a teacher is adding another communication tool, introducing an art form, and developing students fine motor skills. Grammar, vocabulary and spelling are also tools, but they are evolving, as languages do. All of us would be considered sloppy illiterates by a 16th century schoolchild, who would be hard put to read our musings and would likely wonder how we managed to spend so much time with words and still not spell them properly. lol

Geordie Lad
Geordie Lad

Although my handwriting is truly appalling (on a par with my doctor's!) I firmly believe that cursive writing IS important. It helps significantly with learning to spell - and God knows, the modern generation could certainly do with some lessons on that! Geordie Lad (UK)

VirtualPro
VirtualPro

If we do not need cursive writing because of technology, then take it the next step and change the dictionary to match how texting is done! Do you know how many students now hand in papers (high school) with no upper or lowercase, poor sentence structure and even spelling errors because for everything else they don't care and turn off the spell checkers! Take a look at a seniors yearbook and try to read what other students wrote. How about when they go for a job that still has paper job applications? Don't worry about teaching them 2+2 just give them a calculator. Don't worry about teaching them to play ball - give them a wii. Don't worry about making music or learning an insturment - give them an iPod.

prebman
prebman

I've only ready through page 1 of 8, but thought I'd add my 2 cents anyway. My thoughts: I suppose if all you've ever done is print, then cursive is difficult and slow and probably not very neat. If I need to write quickly, as in taking notes, I definitely use cursive. (I don't always have a computer at hand.) Cursive has always been faster than printing for me and I suspect also for others who were raised before the "every kid has a computer" age. I'm a software engineer and so I am on a computer most of the time, so touch typing is critical, too. But if you're away from your computer and have really learned cursive you'll find it to be faster than printing and it will be legible... if you want it to be. Again, this is just my humble opinion. Cheers.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Every...[b]every[/b]...time that I can remember national standards being proposed in the last four decades, people came out of the woodwork to complain that they were too strict, too lenient, not the business of the federal government, etc., etc., etc. The USA is the only industrialized nation with no common core of national education standards; each state is allowed to set their own, and most don't require the teaching of analytical thinking. If anything has contributed to our economic decline and the current political Balkanization, this is it.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Please cite 5 studies that are on point. If there are "plenty" of them, coming up with 5 shouldn't be too hard.

oldthom
oldthom

I think you would benefit from taking the test at similarminds.com/types/selfabsorbed.html not to mention a course in grammar.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it would have been in hieroglyphics, or '1776' would have been 'MDCCLXXVI'. Documents are written using contemporary character sets. Do you teach archaic English so your children can read the Magna Carta? German so they can read what Martin Luther stuck to the church door? Ancient Hebrew so they can read the original Ten Commandments? How about Babylonian; you never know how inspired they might be by the Code of Hammurabi. You can read cursive; have YOU ever read the Declaration? Yes, there are plenty of skills that have been lost, usually because they aren't needed any more. Educators don't want cursive 'removed'; they're asking if there are skills more appropriate to the 21st century that would be a better use of limited class time. Unlike the guy who lost WWII, no one is saying you can't teach your kids anything you want on your own time. Speaking of which, I'm invoking Godwin's Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I was schooled in the old days and I cannot not now, nor could I ever, read the Declaration in its original script. The lettering is too far removed from present day - or even 50 year old - cursive to have much in common with it. The Declaration was written in cursive because that's all there was at the time. If it were written today, it's doubtful even the rough draft would have been written on paper in any format. If it had been composed on a computer, would that somehow diminish the power of what it says? If you think so, you don't get it anyway. How about we agree that we shouldn't let clowns of any stripe or affiliation dictate anything. Like you're trying to do, for example...

ricardoc
ricardoc

"Written signatures (using cursive writing) provide a unique identifier for us." means that any other style of signature does not provide a unique identifier for us? Why? As for "Anything that moves away from that is a gift for fraudsters and crooks." any signature (ANY) can be forged.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

@benoddo Electricity is absolutely not dependent on fossil fuels, it is only the primary source at the moment because it is usually cheaper than alternatives. Other than that, I am really not sure what point you are trying to make?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

didn't 'live' in a era where computers were common in the workplace. And Gump didn't have to suffer through learning it; he wasn't real, remember?

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I completely reject your assumption that there's something magic about your favored way of making letters on paper that automatically makes the words those letters form more coherent, more tightly reasoned, more persuasive, more passionate or, simply, better in any way whatsoever, that printed letters. I don't for a minute disgree with the problems you cite, indeed, I agree completely. However, I do not agree with what you claim to be the cause or the cure. You're welcome to your opinion, but cite sources if you claim anything more. Also, be sure those sources, if you have them, accounts for the OTHER changes in the education process, that have occurred over the past 20 or however many years.

ricardoc
ricardoc

you say "For what its worth I feel cursive writing is part of who you are if you've been lucky enough in this world to receive an education" then it means I'm incomplete since cursive writing is not part of me at all and the education I received is not worth anything because I don't write in cursive? What kind of non-sense is this? What the level of education has anything to do with the way you hand print?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Grammar, vocabulary and spelling are also tools, but they are evolving, as languages do." Then why oppose evolution in the methods we use to leverage those tools? Teaching cursive in schools in addition to printing is like teaching 21st century English and then mandating students also master the language as written in Shakespeare's time.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

The fact that students today have real trouble writing (as in good grammar, strong reasoning and so forth) is not related to their use of computers. For whatever reason, they are not being taught and required to do so - that has not nothing to do with how they present their work. Computers are tools, like hammers, saws, nails, etc. etc. I have all of these in my garage, but I have no skills in carpentry. The fact that I cannot make a bird house is not the tools' fault; it's because I've never learned how to do so or (more particularly in this discussion) been required to do so.. By the way, every form of any sort - including job applications - I have ever had to complete has said, usually in large letters, PLEASE PRINT. I believe my first form was my application for a Learner's Driver Permit, which I obtained in 1963, so I have a pretty good basis for asking WHAT'S YOUR POINT?

oldthom
oldthom

I agree with you Nick, the US is the only industrialized nation without a common set of educational standards and we are desperately in need of one. As he also pointed out, we are the only industrialized nation with a group of semi-autonomous states who have the power, to a large degree, of self-determination and there in lies one of the main problems, which I will not go into here in this debate. There are some wonderful and informative periodicals, studies and web resources available that will tell a very detailed story of where we stand versus those same industrial nations and why our students are no longer competitive in the world market and what that means for our future. We are stuck in the "Made in the USA" and "Not Invented Here" syndromes. We were once one of the (if not "the") greatest examples of democracy and economic power in our world, we have not stayed ahead, much less kept up. My question is, do we have to settle for less than the best? Do we give into the special interest groups, corporate lobbyists, judicial litigators, corrupt legislators, and weak leaders who are only in this for the short-term ... for their own personal gain, power and of course the money? What I would propose would not work in our present fractured democracy with it's blurred nationalism. The debate will end for me here, and should end for each and every person in general - woman, child and man in this country - all need to start doing something about the decline of our education system. Get off your butts, end your addictions and apathy, do the research and put your vote where your mouth and heart lay. Oldthom signing off. (Go and send a letter, in handwriting, to a close friend or relative ... you'll shock the hell out of them! - as well as yourself!)

nustada
nustada

It was a casual comment I made between bites of my lunch. If your looking for thesis quality writing, your in the wrong place. I think it is ironically funny for someone who has a compulsion to look at a website to tell him if he is a narcissist to make a judgement call on someone. Let me ask you when you are chatting with someone face to face, do you employ formal argumentation and grammar objections to half their comments? Furthermore, the only people I see using cursive in the professional world anymore are from doctors and lawyers. I think it has been proven somewhere that those professions attract a disproportionate amount of narcissists and sociopaths.

geek goddess
geek goddess

If you had to learn cursive in grade school and hated it and now only print things, you still fit within the quote as you at least got to learn it and hate it.

guineapig
guineapig

Not 'mandating' but presenting - if there was more choice in education, there would be a whole lot more learning goin' on.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My handwriting was never good enough to get me more than a D on the handwriting tests; that's why I gots Bs in English, not As. I've been a block printer since about the second week of college, when I started to study for a chemistry test and couldn't read my own notes.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have no objection to exposure to it. Treat it like an art form.