Keeping education relevant and challenging - South Lake Press: Voices

Keeping education relevant and challenging

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Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014 6:00 am

The recent news that Florida schools will mandate instruction in cursive writing next school year was a head scratcher, principally because many of us weren’t aware schools aren’t teaching this most basic skill.

In reality, schools haven’t quit teaching cursive completely. The state Board of Education currently requires that students begin learning cursive writing in the third grade, but the policy isn’t explicit. Individual school districts determine how much to emphasize cursive.

But some school administrators admit there has been a significant shift away from it to accommodate anti-drug and anti-bullying instruction now required by the state. One parent told Daily Commercial Staff Writer Millard Ives last week that her fifth grader didn’t start learning cursive until she pulled her out of public school, and another said her child couldn’t sign his name.

It might seem progressive at some level to de-emphasize handwriting in favor of more contemporary skills. This generation is growing up in the technology age, after all, and so much of their communication occurs through keyboards.

And yet the entire business world still requires this skill. You can’t apply for a mortgage, get a driver’s license or fill out a basic job application without signing your name.

We have to wonder about an education system that skimps on instruction for such a fundamental skill. That, and the recent revelation that most schools in Lake County won’t give any child a grade less than 50 in hopes of improving students’ chances of passing, gives us reason to pause and reflect on the direction of public education.

Schools exist to pass knowledge to children, to teach them critical thinking skills and to help them learn to socialize. But t hey also exist to prepare students for the adult world, where they will need basic skills to compete in the job market and where merit is rewarded.

When we fail to provide adequate instruction in something as basic as cursive writing, and when we give students significant handicaps that enable them to pass without putting forth strong effort, we impede their growth and diminish their chances of success later.

That is not to say that the public education system is failing. It continues to produce some of the brightest minds in the world.

But at a time when educators are forced to adapt to changing cultural and social norms, they would be wise to carefully assess what skills and values remain relevant in today’s world and continue to teach those aggressively.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • KateGladstone posted at 7:30 pm on Sun, Mar 23, 2014.

    KateGladstone Posts: 1

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)
    Further research demonstrates that the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the print-writers nor the cursive writers. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there's even an iPad app to teach how: named "Read Cursive," of course — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that's actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes imagine that cursive has taught them grammar, etiquette, or finesse — that it has made them stunningly smart — or that it has granted them other blessings which are no more abundant among users of cursive users than among the rest or the human race. Some users of cursive claim to have research support — citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    What about signatures? 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 (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, then verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger's life easy.
    The individuality of print-style (or other non-cursive style) writings is further shown by this: six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the writing on an unsigned assignment) which of her 25 or 30 students wrote it.
    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.” Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

    /3 Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:



    (shows how the fine motor skills develop in handwriting instruction WITHOUT cursive) —

    Yours for better letters —

    Kate Gladstone • Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    518-482-6763 • 6-B Weis Road • Albany, NY 12208-1942 USA •

    Yours for better letters, Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest