New Castle News

April 17, 2013

Valid alternatives exist to teaching cursive

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Editor, The News:

Handwriting matters. But does cursive matter?

Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters 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.

Often, cursive programs and teachers strongly discourage such practices. Students learning cursive are taught to join all letters, and to use different shapes for cursive versus printed letters. (These requirements do not align with the research findings.)

When following the rules doesn’t work as well as breaking them, it’s time to rewrite 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 5- or 6-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 is 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.

Kate Gladstone

Albany, N.Y.