The Art of Writing – Cursive is Dead?

Posted by nicholaspelafas on July 21, 2011

Oddly enough, I read on the  BBC news website that Indiana has decided to stop requiring students to learn handwriting.  This made me a little bit sad initially, and I really had no idea why I was attached to the idea of cursive or if I really thought it was that important.  But when I put it into the context of Multiliteracies, I decided that my lament was that our conception of multiliteracy is limited largely to the technological and functional, and that we no longer focus on the ways we communicate with each other as an art.  The art of handwriting was a very special act whereby we manifest words as artfully as we conceived them, and while people will surely say that typing is perhaps similar, the fact is that handwriting adds another layer of nuance, of personality, and vulnerability to our words – and also extends the artistic process that begins with the inspiration to express certain thoughts.

I can’t help but wonder if our embracing of impersonal text messaging/text-message english is also indicative of a desire to decrease the vulnerability of our communications while increasing efficiency, at the expense of knowing how to express oneself artfully.  In many ways, extending the process of thought manifestation allows for more thought to take place and, be it on paper or from the mouth, this meant that we were spending more time meditating about what we are saying and considering the socio-cultural context of our expression.  I do not think it is an accident that people are less formal in person nowadays, nor the how rudely people communicate with each other on the internet – these are deeply connected to how we read and write, and how we conceive reading and writing.

I understand that perhaps ‘the art of handwriting’ is not critical for today’s marketplace, and perhaps the precious class time could be used for something else.  But it is important that we consider the potential consequences of taking the art out of our communication, language, and literacies.  For example, how will people sign their names?  How will students perceive the Declaration of Independence or Constitution if they cannot read what is written there?  Will there be any cultural consequences for languages that aren’t so ubiquitously accepted/expressed via a keyboard?

Furthermore, maybe we can think about it in other terms, whereby the ‘art of handwriting’ and other arts-based literacies could be brought back into the classroom in beneficial ways.  Here we can consider the ability of children to understand the concept of pictograms, such as in many asian languages and ancient Egypt, or to know the insights and benefits that can be gained through the practice of calligraphy.  To know how to write fluidly was something I never really thought I was taking for granted, but the times are a changin’ indeed.  If we are really embracing multiliteracies could we not expect students to be able to write with a pen and the keyboard?  Shouldn’t we have higher expectations for our literacy and communication capacities, than thinking that one thing must be replaced by another?  Is it possible some students would better express themselves and their critical thinking capabilities through a pen and paper?


12 July 2011 Last updated at 07:02 E

Indiana latest US state to drop handwriting requirement

Education officials say the move makes sense in a computerised world

Indiana is the latest US state which will not require its schoolchildren to learn joined-up, or cursive, writing.

But students will have to learn basic typing skills, which education officials say are more useful in the modern employment world.

The move is part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which aims to ensure consistency in US education and makes no mention of handwriting.

But critics say writing well is a vital skill for life and builds character.

US schoolchildren currently learn to write with joined-up writing from about the age of eight.

But under the core standards – which were released in June 2010 and have been adopted by nearly all US states – there is no requirement for them to do so.


Children from grade six upwards – about 11 years old – will, however, be expected to “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting”.

Many schools have said there simply is not enough time in the term to teach children both.

Dr Scott Hamilton, an Indiana clinical psychologist, said the time children spend labouring over script could be better used.

“From an intuitive standpoint, this makes sense, based on the increasingly digital world into which this generation of children is growing up,” he said.

Denna Renbarger, an education official in Lawrence Township, Indiana, said there were many more important things for students to be learning at school

“I think it’s progressive of our state to be ahead on this,” she told the Indianapolis Star.

Indiana officials have stressed that the standards are not exhaustive and that teachers could continue teaching handwriting if they chose.

But some parents, teachers and psychologists have reacted angrily to the move, saying there is more to handwriting than being able to write quickly.

“The fluidity of cursive allows for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and through literature,” Paul Sullivan, head teacher of a school in California, told CNN.

“I think there’s a firmer connection of wiring between the brain’s processes of learning these skills and the actual practice of writing.”

Parent Jerry Long told the Indianapolis Star he was worried about what the new system could mean for his sixth grade daughter in the future.

“I don’t agree with it. How are they supposed to know how to sign their names?”

source – BBC News


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