Home Opinion-Free Opinion: Marty Carlson – House should favor cursive writing bill

Opinion: Marty Carlson – House should favor cursive writing bill

House should favor cursive writing bill

Last week the Louisiana Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 275 which would require that cursive writing be taught in the state’s public schools. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklin.

The bill now moves to review by House members and hopefully, the House members will take the same unanimous action to continue teaching this important skill in our schools.
In our technological age where the keyboard or touch screen look to replace handwritten communication, there’s good reason to continue to teach the skill of cursive writing.

Research shows that despite the technological emphasis in schools, handwriting remains the primary communication tool in the classroom. Moreover, research has found that children who don’t master the skill of writing often decide they can’t write – and consequently do less writing than their contemporaries.

Arguments in favor of continuing to teach this skill in our classrooms include that this style of writing is faster and more efficient than printed handwriting and that it teaches fine motor skills. And a New York Times piece quoted Jimmy Bryant, University of Central Arkansas, “Cursive writing is a long-held cultural tradition in this country and should continue to be taught; not just for the sake of tradition, but also to preserve the history of our nation.”

In earlier hearings before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee, Mizell explained her reasoning for the bill saying, “To deprive our students of not knowing how to write cursive, no less read cursive, is pretty audacious on our part.” She also noted that she’s heard of the problems that young folks experience in not knowing what a signature means – and cannot write one.

Mizell makes an important point about knowing how to write cursive as well as read it. As has often been observed by proponents of keeping cursive or script instruction in our schools, students who can’t read this communication form cannot read the original form of our historic national and state documents. The Constitution of the United States, for example, is written in flowing script that would be unintelligible to those who cannot read it.

Many educators, on the other hand, would likely argue that today’s school schedules make it hard to work in cursive handwriting instruction and practice. There’s also the issue of less emphasis on the skill of writing and more on simply writing efficiently in our school curriculum.

But finding that time and teaching the skill should be a curricular requirement in Louisiana’s public elementary schools. Mizell’s concern for young people who don’t know what a signature means is a worry that we should all share. In my day job as a legal secretary, I can attest to the necessity of being able to sign documents like wills, contracts, and similar legal papers.

It would be fair to suggest that if we aren’t teaching the art of writing cursive in our schools, then perhaps we advocate that signing “X” is an appropriate “signature” for the future.

Fortunately, Louisiana state senators apparently see the value to our students of foregoing the “X” factor in favor of continuing to teach this skill in our schools, as have legislatures in several other states.

No doubt the Louisiana House will see the issue the same way.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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  1. Handwriting matters — does cursive? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    Further research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. They join only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving others unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Teaching material for such practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where this is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive that too many North American educators venerate. (Again, sources are available on request.)

    Reading cursive — which still matters — is much easier and quicker to master than writing cursive. Reading cursive can be mastered in just 30 to 60 minutes, even by kids who print.
    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive.” Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach it explicitly and quickly, for free, instead of leaving this vital skill to depend upon learning to write in cursive?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser.. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. Most — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

    When even most handwriting teachers do not follow cursive, why glorify it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders allege that cursive has benefits justifying absolutely anything said or done to promote it. Cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly allege research support — repeatedly citing studies that were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant or by some other, earlier misrepresenter whom the claimant innocently trusts.

    What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    Questioned document examiners (specialists in the identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) find that the least forgeable signatures are plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if following cursive’s rules at all, are fairly complicated: easing forgery.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual. That is how any first-grade teacher immediately discerns (from print-writing on unsigned work) which child produced it.

    Mandating cursive to save handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to save clothing.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

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