Writing in cursive: important tool, nicety, becoming obsolete?

Reply Tue 2 Aug, 2011 10:34 pm

I have opinions myself, but am not so sure about what will or should happen in the future -

I like knowing how to write in cursive and how to print for an architectural drawing. Actually, people don't do that either anymore (or do they?), but I can.

Still, my grocery lists still look like they're put together by a person with rubber bands tying her fingers, as I also have quite a sloppy way when I'm not concerned with how something looks. But then, so did my drafting teacher. Others I know can't do bad printing to save their lives, having some kind of inimitable hand eye coordination thing going on.

I think cursive, once you get it, is easier than printing, since it flows - but that's me. My present natural writing is sort of a mix of both.

I see some schools are dropping cursive, at least as mandatory, apparently in favor of teaching keyboard use. Of course, I'm all for the kids learning to use keyboards - my question is re cutting out cursive.


I can see why, as it takes time to teach and learn, a fair amount of practice, and school time is short. Those of us who do cursive almost always started out clumsy at it, and it took a while to get better. Plus, I suppose people figure children will be computer adjacent for the coming years, or at least text adjacent.

Will those not taught cursive lose out in the lottery of further education? Or not?

I don't know about the boys in my elementary school, so much, but a lot of the girls played around with how their handwriting would look, and enjoyed doing that, changing it through high school and beyond. Some didn't enjoy it though. My friend with the most, um, miserable handwriting has been a long time teacher. No, not of penmanship.
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Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 05:35 am
Being around engineers a lot gives me kind of a perspective on printing, I think. When I met RP, he had the best printing of any guy I had ever known, 'cause he was doing hand drafting. He has not drafted by hand for over a decade, and so his printing has deteriorated.

My father, an engineer, only uses cursive to sign his name. Otherwise, he prints. I believe the same is true of my father-in-law (RP can confirm either way).

My mother and I both have lousy script writing. My mother-in-law can do calligraphy (or at least a reasonable approximation thereof), and it's really pretty.

People just don't use cursive that much these days. I don't argue against its prettiness, but to get information across, we type. And for teachers, cursive is even worse. I used to teach and this was way back and it was blackboards and chalk and all. Any time I used cursive, I ended up with a horrible slant and my writing would dive down to the right as I went. With printing, I seemed to be better at keeping it straight, and I am sure it was, overall, a lot more legible to the students.
Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 07:00 am
One of the things that I'm finding quite odd is exams that are still hand-written. People type their notes, use the keyboard at work all day, and then 3 times a year have to write 2 and 3 hour exams. After 45 minutes you see people waving their hands around as their fingers have cramped up - they're not used to writing anymore.

ok, cursive. I still handwrite notes while I'm on the phone at work v keyboarding. I haven't mastered the headset/thinking/reading/keyboarding combo yet. My handwriting's decent when I really settle to write something - a bit of a cursive/print blend. Always legible.

Set probably has the nicest cursive of anyone I know these days.
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Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 10:08 am
Back when I hand drafted all those years, my printing was necessarily as fast my cursive - but it was, in memory, somewhat more tiring to bat out a lot of it. But that's probably a false analogy since I never used cursive in drafting, and drawing and design thinking often went along with the lettering. My favorite tool was probably the electric eraser...

On calligraphy, I did that for a while but didn't keep it up. There's probably some identifiable calligraphy squiggle in my now cursive-printing handwriting.

Re the original question - I guess I can see being fine with whatever works for individuals, but still feel there should be alternatives taught for other than keyboard use, for flexibility if not for security from electrical outages, or for battery independence. So, if it's printing, not just how to do the alphabet or characters, but how to communicate in note form reasonably fast.

Interesting, Beth, about the three hour exam writing after otherwise other methods for so long.
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Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 10:16 am
my father had great handwriting, mine stinks, i tend to print in all caps, which is odd because i type in almost exclusively lower case
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Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 11:22 am
I'm ambiguous about the subject. Me? I lament my terrible handwriting (and sloppy printing as well).

It should be considered an art form but not a mandatory subject at school. Beautiful to look at and read but not a practical subject to waste too much time on in elementary school.

I wonder how much better my handwriting would have been had my mother let me grow up to be a left handed writer. I was told I tried to write with my left hand but was forced to use my right hand. Sad
Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 11:30 am
So, when children in elementary school start writing book reports (well, we did, in fourth grade), they use computers, or they print it? I don't know anyone in elementary school now myself. Well, one, and she's a long way away and we don't email. Anyway, she's likely to write beginning cursive already, as her father's a teacher and mother an attorney. I can see potential for financial class differentiation with who ends up being able to write cursive, say, 25 years from now. And am guessing there will still be financial differentiation with who will have computers and all their access supplies us.
Reply Wed 3 Aug, 2011 11:36 am
Tsar, back on my first job, when I was sixteen and took mini xrays (yes, looking back, I'm amazed they hired me), there were sometimes some long waits until patients were brought down to the department. The desk had a medical dictionary. I kept a notebook of words I wanted to know. I got bored. I started trying to write the words left-handed. I got so I could do it, but boy, did it look terrible.
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Reply Thu 13 Jun, 2013 02:29 pm
Osso - I just read this:


And came to A2K to see if anyone had posted about it.

I was concerned when my youngest did not learn cursive in 3rd grade. I have shown him how to sign his name and to join letters - but now I am determined he will learn it well and practice it over the summer. His teacher spent less than 2 weeks with them.

I was appalled then. Now I am just grateful I found this and can do it now....

Here is why:
Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

There is spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. Students have to pay attention and think about what and how they are doing it. They have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.

Much of the benefit of hand writing in general comes simply from the self-generated mechanics of drawing letters. During one study at Indiana University to be published this year,[3] researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate 5-year olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters. The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing. This lab has also demonstrated that writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres.

Apparently cursive is even more critical than just writing if you will read on. Very interesting.

I wonder if it is something that continues to build neural activity if practiced. I rarely write by hand these days.
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Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2013 03:05 pm
I just saw your post, Mismi, sorry for the delay. Very interesting.

I'm also from the generation of hand drafters - just before computer drafting was taught. I was pretty swift at it, but no where near as so older drafters were - my goodness, some plans were incredibly beautiful done, besides being good designs.

Now I haven't a proper desk set up and scribble stuff on little pads of paper, some times cursive, sometimes printing..
going downhill in a handbasket re clear writing.
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