Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Penmanship: A Debate

What are your thoughts on cursive handwriting? 

I feel very nostalgic for cursive and am often depressed when I think of its current decline. 

As a teacher at a school, I witness first-hand its de-popularization. Teachers are given less time to teach it and in a new computer-oriented world good penmanship seems archaic. 

I've noticed that people in their 60s still have good handwriting---men and women alike. But after that generation, handwriting has gone downhill. Although women still seem to have nice handwriting, it is unique to them and doesn't have the uniformity stressed in school 50 years ago. 

What do you think? Is penmanship still important to you or something that time shouldn't be wasted on? 

- Grace


  1. Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter?

    Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation: Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 2001: on-line at http://www.sbac.edu/~werned/DATA/Brain%20research%20class/handwriting%20speed%20style%20legibility%20berninger.pdf — and there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way.)

    When following the rules doesn’t work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.)

    Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

    (In other words, we could simply teach kids to _read_ old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to _write_ that way too ... not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing _well_.)

    Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    Director, the World Handwriting Contest
    Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad

  2. Hi Kate,

    Thank-you for your thoughtful comment!

    We always love hearing from our readers!



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