Should Schools Be So Hasty To Drop Cursive?

In many schools across the country cursive writing is being dropped as a part of the curriculum in English classes. Many see it as a practice that is becoming obsolete. I went to a high school where until eleventh grade all assignments had to hand written and in script. We also only had the option of handwriting our notes, nothing could be typed. According to my teachers writing in cursive helped us do to do better and made our though and creativity flow more smoothly and transfer better into words. We were also told that notes were to be handwritten because they helped us to remember the information better. To me always having to write out my assignments seemed tedious and annoying, especially because I had never learned to write in cursive, but were my teachers right? I ventured out into cyberspace to see what evidence there might be in support of their claims. 

My null hypothesis was that cursive did not affect your writing or intelligence more than any other type of writing style.

The alternative hypothesis was that writing in cursive does indeed improve writing and or creativity.

Most specialists and psychologists agreed that cursive is good to learn and use, but did not have much scientific data to back it up. Suzanne Buranch Anderson wrote in The New York Times that cursive writing is better for memory and thinking and language skills and that was the general consensus in scientific and psychological magazines, but very few people had studies to back up this information, just stating that they were specialists in the field. However I did find one study with very promising data.

In 2012 Marie-France Morin, Natalie Lavoie and Isabelle Montésinos-Gelet did a study for the University of Montreal testing out the effects of different writing styles. For participants they used students in Quebec, where the process of learning to write manuscript and cursive are both alive and well, unlike in many U.S schools, where cursive had been kicked to the curb. They split the seven hundred and eighteen second grade students into three learning groups, those who learned print, those who learned cursive, and those who learned print then cursive.

The results showed that learning solely cursive writing yielded the best results when it came to skills in syntax. These students were able to spell and had higher writing abilities overall. They found that students who wrote in cursive understood the concepts of words better because they were not just a bunch of separate symbols next to each other, but one flowing connected writing. Having this sort of flow to their writing helped them get ideas down better and faster (before they could be forgotten) because they were not pausing as much as their print and print-cursive counter parts. This led to their increased graphic-motor skills which is why they are more skilled than their print counter parts. The reason why print-cursive students were not as proficient, and in fact were least proficient of the three, is because they are not able to fully progress in one style. Instead the automation skills they are beginning to learn in print are barred by switching to cursive, causing their spelling and ability to get down their ideas to be hindered.

In this study the alternative hypothesis turned out to be right, as do my old-school teachers. Cursive does indeed appear to increase ability to write more fluidly and help you get your ideas out better, and just causes improved syntax overall.

As we are reminded constantly in class, correlation does not equal causation, and a third variable or just plain chance could be the reason for the cursive students increased skill sets, but personally this evidence makes me grateful for the hours spent writing out my homework assignments.

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7 thoughts on “Should Schools Be So Hasty To Drop Cursive?

  1. lkr5215

    I love the topic! i have always wondered why cursive was emphasized in school. As someone who currently still writes in cursive at times this was a very nice blog to read. I liked the way you pulled your ideas together and you made everything very clear and concise.

  2. Christopher Joseph Kiefer

    When I learned cursive in school, we were told that we would have to write everything in cursive in middle school and high school, so it was very important in our curriculum. I was surprised to find out that I would never use cursive past the fourth or fifth grade except for when I sign my name. I am not surprised that a skill like writing in cursive is associated with better ability to read and spell, but I do not really see a point for us to keep it around.

  3. jnb5450

    This was super interesting to read. I never really though about if writing in cursive could make us think better and be more creative.. Now I want to write in cursive more often. It’s cool to see how there is a science background behind writing in cursive v. writing in print, and how the fluency in cursive makes us understand a sentence better because it;s not just “symbols” (letters) all in a bunch next to each other. TIME Magazine even wrote an article about why kids should all be learning how to write in cursive: http://time.com/2820780/five-reasons-kids-should-still-learn-cursive-writing/

  4. Sean Patrick Hickey

    I remember learning cursive in school, and since then I have forgotten how to write almost all the letters except the ones that are in my name. I like to sign my name in cursive because it looks cool but other than that I can’t think of a reason to learn it. No one really writes in cursive anymore and an argument can be made that kids should be learning how to type instead of cursive. But despite the lack of evidence I think kids should still learn cursive even if it is only how to sign their name, and this could be taught fairly quickly, with a few of these worksheets http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/cursive-1/make-c.htm a kid could learn his or her name fairly quickly.

  5. Francis John Bassani

    I also agree cursive is aggravating and something I do not enjoy. However I see its uses for signing ones name to be recognized officially in a court of law. I will argue I believe it should be something everyone is taught but not something that is always required. When I was in grammar school learning cursive it was the most annoying thing because I simply refused to learn it, I just liked writing in plain text. However the teacher won and I had to learn it and it became fun. I still to this day prefer to write in plain text but I like knowing i have the skill of writing in cursive if I have to.

  6. dff5115

    In 5th grade almost all of writing in English class was written in cursive and we had days dedicated to learning cursive. I thought almost everyone wrote in cursive that is why we were learning it so much but after the 5th grade i dont think i have ever written in cursive again. I kind of wish people did still did write in cursive because as your blog post states it has actual benefits to it. I think that cursive writing should still be taught in school because of the benefits that it offers.

  7. Matthew Hogan

    I hate writing in cursive, but I still wish I was taught how to do it more in elementary school. My three older siblings learned cursive and are pretty good at it. However, when I learned it in school they were starting to get rid of it so I learned it very briefly and am not very good at it. I don’t even know what all the letters are. It also makes it a little annoying to sign my name because it takes me a longer time than most people because I am very bad at cursive. After reading about that study I think kids should definitely be taught cursive. It will be a good skill for them to have and is certainly one I wish I had.

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