“Will a simple handwritten note look like hieroglyphics to the next generation?”

August 24th, 2011

Following up on my previous coverage about the death of cursive writing, CNN repeats a question blogged by a second-grade teacher–“Will a simple handwritten note look like hieroglyphics to the next generation?”

It’s a touchy subject: Is there a reason schools should continue to teach cursive, and is it worth the time that must be spent?

Forty out of 50 states in the United States have adopted the Common Core curriculum, which phases out cursive writing in the classroom, for their public schools.

“With technology being what students need to learn in order to participate in a global world and economy, I’m not sure schools can forfeit the time to teach cursive, unfortunately,” said Paige French, an eighth-grade history teacher in Dallas, Texas.

And why is learning cursive actually relevant, other than for nostalgic reasons?

But educators like McGrann feel cursive is more than a traditional style of writing. They believe it has intrinsic value for learning and self-expression.

“For struggling writers, cursive allows them to be more fluent and thus lets their ideas flow on the page more readily … some students have more ideas in their heads than they can (print) on paper,” says McGrann. “If you integrate penmanship with other literacy activities, the formation of letters really does make a difference in the way kids retain information.”

“The discipline of cursive is excellent for developing fine motor skills, especially in young children,” agrees Mary Brennan, who has her own handwriting business in New York. “It’s part art training, part everyday work skill.”

There is some scientific evidence that they’re right. A Wall Street Journal article from last year cites studies from Indiana University and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, which suggested that writing by hand increases brain activity and memory of concepts.

Blah. Even in middle school, I found that I was able to put ideas on the paper more fluidly with a keyboard than a pen. This is a factor of how one is trained. Give me a pen and I have a terrible case of writer’s block. GIve me a keyboard, and you get thousands of blog posts and dozens of articles. But, perhaps I am an anomaly. So ignore what I just said. Experts are here to save a course in which they have an interest in teaching. Listen to them!