Should All Schools Teach Cursive?

Should All Schools Teach Cursive?

Find all our Student Opinion questions here.

Do you know how to write in cursive? If yes, where did you learn this skill? How often do you use it?

Is cursive a valuable skill in 2019? Or is it a relic of the past?

In “A Defense of Cursive, From a 10-Year-Old National Champion,” Tracey Tully writes:

A fifth grader in New Jersey is a master of curlicues and connecting loops. His technique is so good he was named a state and national champion of a dying art: cursive writing, a skill that once seemed destined to go the way of the typewriter.

The boy, Edbert Aquino, who is 10, took home last year’s national trophy, $500 and bragging rights for his Roman Catholic elementary school in Bergen County.

But competition for the prize might just get stiffer in New Jersey.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, a Democrat from Jersey City, has introduced legislation that would require public schools to again teach a skill that had been phased out across the country, but is now enjoying something of a revival.

Like many students in New Jersey, Ms. McKnight’s son had never been taught cursive writing. Tasks she considers fundamental were beyond him: autographing a yearbook; endorsing a check; signing an application.

So she bought a workbook and taught him at home. “I wanted him to be able to sign his name,” she said. “It’s a life skill.”

The proliferation of computers and screens, coupled with the advent of rigorous Common Core standards and new demands on teachers, had led to a gradual disappearance of cursive instruction across the nation. In New Jersey, public schools have not been required to teach handwriting since 2010.

To many people who recall being berated for their illegible writing, the disappearance of cursive is nothing to lament.

“As an exercise, writing things by hand is up there with cobbling shoes and shoeing horses,” a columnist, Alexandra Petri, wrote in 2012 in The Washington Post.

The article explores some of the benefits of cursive and handwriting:

“After they got rid of handwriting, now they’re all rediscovering it,” Virginia Berninger, a retired University of Washington professor who has conducted research on the ways children learn when using print or script. “People mistakenly assumed because we had computers, we didn’t need handwriting. We need both.”

Putting a pencil or pen to paper helps form an impression in a child’s brain and is beneficial for early literacy, regardless of whether the letters are printed or written in script, Professor Berninger said. But her studies have shown a connection between the linked letters in cursive writing and improved spelling proficiency.

“We think those connecting strokes help children link the letters into word units, which helps their spelling,” she said. Handwriting, she said, also allows children to write fluidly and quickly, which can lead to longer stories and essays.

Edbert, who was declared a national winner as a third grader, said that when he does use cursive, he is forced to slow down, which allows his ideas to flow more freely and helps with creativity. “If I’m, like, handwriting it, I just tend to write better,” he said.

Still, even Edbert said he would prefer to use a computer (and spell-check) for long assignments. “I can type faster than I can write,” he said.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Should all schools teach cursive? Is cursive an important “life skill,” as Angela McKnight, an assemblywoman, believes? Or is it an obsolete craft like “cobbling shoes and shoeing horses,” as Alexandra Petri, a columnist, has written?

  • Do you know how to write in cursive? If yes, how often do you use it? If you don’t write in cursive, is this a skill you wish you had? Why or why not? Do you have a signature that you use when you sign forms or other documents?

  • What are the benefits of cursive? Do you agree with Edbert Aquino that writing in cursive allows “ideas to flow more freely” and helps with creativity? What do you believe are the drawbacks of cursive?

  • Virginia Berninger, the retired professor, says that putting a pencil or pen to paper helps form an impression in a child’s brain and is beneficial for early literacy. Has it been your experience that you learn and process things differently or better when you write by hand? Why or why not?

  • Does reading the article make you want to write by hand more often? Do you think that a hundred years from now, students will still be writing in cursive? Will they be writing by hand?