CON: Cursive loses importance in digital world

Oct. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.
Updated Oct. 17, 2011 at 5:17 a.m.

Students in the early part of the 20th century studied calligraphy.

Students in the 1950s and '60s studied a simpler form of cursive like the Zaner-Bloser method.

And now, students are hardly taught the loopy letters at all.

"Curriculum should be evolutionary. It should evolve according to what the needs of society are. And as we're seeing more and more of what we do go online, there is less and less that needs to be handwritten," explained Jill Fox, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Fox and her colleague at UHV, Steve Trowbridge, said the reason cursive has been sidelined over the years is simple: It's not tested.

"If I can either teach penmanship or mathematics so that my school does not get a bad 'report card,' what will I do?" Trowbridge said in an email.

Victoria College student Leslie Zepeda, 18, said she admires those who can write in beautiful cursive, but in her case, it just wasn't a priority.

"I just find it so much easier to write in print than it is to write in cursive. The only time I use cursive is to sign my name. My cursive is terrible," she said, laughing.

By the time her third-grade year of cursive instruction was over, Zepeda said she jumped right back to mostly print.

"It's not that I didn't like (cursive). It's just that they didn't require it anymore," she said.

Fox said most of the handwriting she sees from her students is split 50-50 between cursive and print.

But, if cursive curriculum continues on the track it's been in the last century, cursive could become even less common.

Fox said research shows that making letters supports letter recognition, so there's no question that learning handwriting is essential in a child's development.

"We're also seeing now that there are brain connections that are strengthened and supported through the physical act of writing," Fox said. "So we may see over the long term some changes in the ways that children learn to recognize letters in those brain connections, if we do away with the writing curriculum."

Does that mean we should keep the curriculum for cursive writing, though?

"At this point in time in our development, yes," Fox said. "But I think we will see in the not-so-distant future where it's really not necessary."



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