The Way of the Dinosaurs - Bye, Bye Handwriting


Going the Way of the Dinosaurs by Karen Campos

I didn’t say I was happy about it.

I’m talking about penmanship, long hand, cursive, handwriting. Call it what you will. It may be going the way of the dinosaur and disappearing off the face of the earth. It’s a whole new breed of endangered species. Events that used to be considered a rite of passage to becoming an adult.

According to Wikipedia, “The Common Core Standards do not mandate the teaching of cursive handwriting, although states are free either to add a cursive requirement or to permit individual school districts to require it. Currently seven states have elected to maintain teaching of cursive. Those states are California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Utah. The standards include instruction in keyboarding.” So, depending on where you live, your child may or may not receive direct cursive instruction. The argument rests on the notion that keyboarding instruction and skills are more pervasive and will benefit the students in a greater way than cursive instruction.

Yes, keyboarding skills are important, no doubt about that. But learning cursive is not simply for the purpose of creating beautiful writing. It’s all about what goes on inside the mind when the skill is being learned and used. Research from Indiana University concluded that writing by hand activates areas of the brain that aren’t used in typing. The University of Washington has research that revealed that when elementary-school students composed essays on paper rather than on-screen, they wrote more words in a shorter period of time.

It’s like asking, “Why should I learn another language when Google can translate anything I need?” Simple. You do it because you want to build brain cells and neuron connectors and dendrites for long term increased intelligence and memory enhancement. It also improves hand-eye coordination and develops much needed fine motor skills. Skills that surgeons and artists alike will need. “Why should we learn arithmetic when we all have calculators?” Because kids need to have a basic understanding of how numbers work. “Why should I teach my kids about physical money when we are moving to a cashless society?” Because kids need to see how money is earned, moved, saved, and lost. “Why should I learn cursive?” Same reason. It’s basic fundamental knowledge and builds brain power to boot! Additionally, most standardized tests still require a handwritten essay with good old pencil and paper.

Cursive also requires discipline, another precious commodity going the way of the dinosaur. Learning cursive challenges kids to take their time and think as they write. In as little as 15 minutes a day for two months, one can learn the strokes of all 26 upper and lowercase letters. Another two months adds fluency and speed to the equation. Is this too much of an investment? That is a serious pay off for perseverance when you can acquire a new skill in two months. I taught third grade for six years and we spent 10-12 minutes a day on cursive for most of the year. You wouldn’t believe the confidence it built in the children as they mastered it. Not to mention that they could now say they have a “signature” and could sign their checks in the Economy Unit and give “autographs” after the Talent Show. An electronic signature may have its usefulness, but a handwritten signature is a special and unique way you represent yourself to the world.

A letter written in cursive emanates intelligence, grace and creativity. If students of today are not taught cursive, how long will it take before we have a generation who cannot read cursive either? What about a special note from a grandparent? An old love letter between parents? Letters written home from military family member deployed across the seas? These are priceless, but not if they go unread or appreciated. What about the Declaration of the Independence and the Constitution of the United States? They were written by learned men in learned language in learned script. I guess in the future they could find an interpreter. That would be sad, don’t you think?

Obviously I am a proponent of cursive handwriting. I work with my children routinely to keep theirs in good form (and their friends have asked for help from me too). I write them letters in cursive in their scrapbooks hoping my unique style will bring smiles to their faces even when I am long gone. I sincerely hope the saying “I need your John Hancock” doesn’t go the way of the dinosaurs too!

So, how’s your cursive? Do you have an opinion about your children learning it?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.



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