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Monfredo: The Importance of Teaching Cursive Writing in Our Schools

Saturday, October 06, 2018

 

In an age of technology computers have emerged as the primary source for writing. Many school districts across the nation feel teaching cursive writing is not necessary and believe that time would be better spent teaching keyboard skills.  Thus, the pen many not be as mighty as the keyboard in the 21st century. However, there are still states, including Massachusetts that have added a limited use of cursive requirement to the national standards and many other states are still studying the issue.

Just recently a former parent and a friend of mine, Chris Dolat, from my Belmont Community School days when I was principal asked me whether cursive writing is being taught in the Worcester Public Schools.  Others, via the internet started voicing their concern on this issue.

Doing my due diligence I checked in with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, but when I called the Education Department I was surprised to find out what was required in the teaching of handwriting.  They informed me that schools must teach students to write their name legibly and that the districts in Massachusetts can set their own policy.  I put in a call to Dr. Susan O’Neil, second in command in the Worcester Public Schools who is the Manager for Instruction and School Leadership.  She received the following email from the State on this topic. "The only cursive we require is signing your given name by the end of fourth grade and your full name by the end of fifth (these standards were added in 2017). Otherwise, the standards include language such as “write legibly in print or cursive… wherever relevant, to mention cursive without mandating its instruction.”  Dr. O’Neil did indicate that, “Currently WPS follows the guidelines from DESE.   Managers will be discussing and reviewing what we should do as a district in the future.”   Therefore, there may be some change its policy.

I have placed an agenda item on the next School Committee meeting to see what is being done district-wide and also as a way of reminding everyone that cursive writing should be given more consideration in the elementary grades.  Obviously, some schools spend more time on cursive writing than others.   Most school systems will teach it at the end of the second grade and then after that there is very little cursive writing taking place.

Whether it is required or not, cursive has been taking a “back seat” as schools across the nation increasingly replace the pen and paper with classroom computers.  Instruction is geared to academic subjects that are now tested by standardized exams that are taken on the computer.

Still many in the educational field say that cursive writing is beneficial to the student.  Researchers claim that it benefits the child’s brain, coordination, and motor skills, as well as connects them to the past, to relatives’ letters or to historical documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

If you’re a proponent of cursive writing like me you may be happy to know that it’s making a comeback in some states.  Also, the nation’s largest public school district, New York City, is encouraging cursive writing in their curriculum.

According to “Parenting Squad” which is a community of parents, experts and authors from all walks of life whose goal is the health and happiness of children everywhere shared their findings with the community and polled teachers to uncover the reasons cursive writing should be taught in the schools. Here are four reasons:

  • Develops motor skills – Cursive writing requires a very different skill set from print writing.  Additionally, it activates a different part of the brain than regular writing does.  At the age cursive is taught, ages 7-8, these skills can be very beneficial in furthering motor skill development.
  • Reinforces learning – When students are taught the English language in only one form, print writing, they get only one chance to learn and memorize letters.  By having to learn cursive as well, students get another opportunity to fully comprehend the alphabet.  Learning cursive also gives students a clearer understanding of how letters are formed, which will improve their print writing as well.
  • Working with legal documents – Being comfortable with cursive writing will guarantee students to be confident when writing and signing legal documentation.  A cursive signature is most commonly required to endorse legal documents, accompanied by a printed version of their name too.  Writing and signing checks is another reason for learning cursive. Cursive writing has historically been the standard style when writing authorized checks for payment.  Students risk being confident and successful when working with basic legal documents if they don’t learn cursive.
  • Helps students with disabilities – Students with learning disabilities, specifically dyslexia, can have a very hard time with writing in print because many of the letters are similar, such as the b and the d.   This gives dyslexic students another option that can decrease their dyslexic tendencies and make them more confident in their abilities.  In addition, according to research, some people suffer from brain injuries that damage their ability to write and understand print – while their ability to comprehend cursive remains.
  • Connects students to the past – Without being able to read cursive writing, students will undoubtedly be kept from many opportunities to read important documents for many of the historical documents are written in cursive.   They will also miss out in reading important letters and cards from their grandparents or great-grandparents, too.

 

So, should cursive be taught in the schools?  I believe that children need more exposure to cursive writing for the many reasons mentioned. This issue should not be about technology vs. cursive. Why can’t we do both?  More importantly, if teaching cursive writing is eliminated from schools, children could miss out on many other opportunities. Cursive is not just a method of writing words, it is a wonderful method of communication with historical, scientific and educational importance to all. 

 

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