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Cursive Writing Is a Fading Skill — Does It Matter? 857

Posted by kdawson
from the something's-gained-and-something's-lost dept.
antdude sends along an AP piece on the decline of the teaching of cursive writing in schools — ramifications of which we've discussed a few times before. "The decline of cursive is happening as students are doing more and more work on computers, including writing. In 2011, the writing test of the National Assessment of Educational Progress will require 8th and 11th graders to compose on computers, with 4th graders following in 2019. ... Handwriting is increasingly something people do only when they need to make a note to themselves rather than communicate with others, [an educator] said. Students accustomed to using computers to write at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of hours of practicing cursive handwriting. 'I am not sure students have a sense of any reason why they should vest their time and effort in writing a message out manually when it can be sent electronically in seconds.'"
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Cursive Writing Is a Fading Skill — Does It Matter?

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  • by Nexx (75873) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:32PM (#29486859)
    NYTimes recently had an article on penmanship. Cursive deserves to die -- it often results in illegible scrawl. I'd explain why, but the article [nytimes.com] does it so much better.
  • by cmdahler (1428601) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:41PM (#29486927)
    Cursive writing does not "make up the essential underpinnings of literacy..." Cursive is simply a way of writing a block of text quickly with minimal pen lifts. It's completely irrelevant today.
  • Science (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:45PM (#29486957)

    Any equation is easier to write down by hand than by tex, MS Word equation editor, etc.

    And you look like a total douche if you can't write an equation neatly enough that others can read it.

    Of course, this isn't cursive specifically, but handwriting in general.

  • Re:My child (Score:4, Informative)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradisNO@SPAMpalegray.net> on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:50PM (#29487001) Homepage Journal
    I know many people, from my great-grandfather's era up to mine, that were taught cursive handwriting in private schools. Have you got a source to substantiate your claim?
  • lecture notes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 20, 2009 @10:56PM (#29487051)

    One of the primary uses for cursive writing, historically has been for students to take notes of what teachers and professors are saying in class. This could also be applied to similar note-taking situations outside the classroom, for example, when listening to a speech.

    One could argue that this is no longer important because lectures are increasingly videotaped with transcripts (or at least outlines) distributed to students. But taking notes is a way for students to maintain involvement in class. By taking notes, a student is, in a way, recreating the lecture in real-time. It is all too easy to let one's mind drift when one can fall back on transcripts or videotape.

    The availability of audiotape or videotapes is dangerous because it generally takes just as long to listen to them as it did to attend the original lecture. It's easy to kid oneself about this, only to find there is not enough time to review them.

    I suppose one could type notes into some electronic gadget, but chances are that would strike people as overkill. Why bother? Besides, typing does not support the kind of random access editing of one's notes that cursive writing does (or if it does, it would take too long to do it in real time while the professor is talking).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 20, 2009 @11:16PM (#29487215)

    The keyboard will not fade into oblivion - primarily because any of us that can touch-type can type faster than we write.

  • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @11:25PM (#29487287) Homepage

    A legal signature doesn't need to be anything, though. It doesn't even have to be your name, for goodness sake (mine, for the longest time, was not my name at all, in fact) and it certainly doesn't have to be externally legible.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @11:48PM (#29487469)

    The thing with "doesn't matter to me" is that opinion on cursive writing is always going to be polarised. On a forum like Slashdot there's usually no point even raising the issue. The forum is largely populated with philistines who couldn't give a fuck about anything as individual as handwriting. OK, I guess I made my own position clear enough in the last sentence. Yes, I still write with a fountain-pen (and sometimes even a quill) on paper in addition to using a keyboard. There is still a lot to be said for a low-tech approach that is not vulnerable to power blackouts, viruses, malware or spyware.

    That's what non-cursive writing (printing) is for. It's much more legible to people other than the writer.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday September 20, 2009 @11:52PM (#29487507)

    What does writing in cursive have to do with power outages or blackouts? Do power outages cripple your hands? You can't write using standard hand writing? I find this cursive-worship a lot of people have to be completely arbitrary and silly. Do you hunt and kill and butcher all of your own food? Do you make and can all of your own fruits and vegetables and preserves? Do you skin and tan your own leather clothing? Do you use kerosene lamps? Do you own a horse instead of a car for transportation?

    Of course not. There is no inherent value in something simply because it is old or because it is tradition.

    Cursive is intended as a smoother, quicker, easier-on-the-hand form of writing. If you write a hell of a lot by hand, it can be very necessary to speed things up and keep your hand from cramping. However, it has been a couple of decades since most people actually needed to sit down with a pen and piece of paper and write reams of content in a single sitting. Writing is largely for notes and lists these days and we use devices -- computer, etc -- for anything of great length. It's faster and less stressful on the hand (I say this as a person who grew up wanting to be a writer and therefore producing hundreds upon hundreds of pages of sheets full of cursive-written material and frequently had a very pained hand as a result).

    If we were talking the death of hand writing, that's one thing. It's a fundamental necessity to be able to know how to, among other things, write your damn name. Or leave a note on someone's car when you scratch it with a shopping cart. Or write a thoughtful note to a loved one. But the death of cursive? Meh. So what. What about short-hand? Morse code? Olde English?

    And yes, this whole article already appeared on Slashdot like a month ago.

  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:26AM (#29487757)

    And what font to you use when you are writing a check out in your checkbook?
    And what font will you use when you sign legal documents? Make a bix "X"?

    No, no matter what font, you still need a legal signature that is not computer generated?

    No you don't. "This application [belgium.be] will allow you to electronically sign documents by means of your electronic identity card (eID). First of all, the document you selected will be converted into a PDF document. Then, it will be signed electronically by means of your eID. "

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:39AM (#29487811)

    It wouldn't hurt people to learn how to churn butter or forge horse-shoes. Perhaps if we knew where things came from we'd have a better appreciation for the work involved and somewhat less of an unsustainable throw-away culture.

  • by ajlisows (768780) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:46AM (#29487853)

    Same with AP history tests, in my experience.

    After the last Slashdot article on handwriting, I got to thinking about my own handwriting and broke out old papers that I wrote in school. You don't get to keep any of the AP tests, but I found essays that I wrote in my AP History class. Our teacher did a fantastic job of preparing us for the exam and tried to emulate the time constraints of the AP exam for standard class essay tests....meaning you were writing furiously to get the thing done. I was astonished at how little cursive I used. When I did use it, it was usually some hackish looking hybrid between cursive and print. My college essays, many of which also had pretty difficult time constraints, contained even less cursive. I have one exam where I have three and a half "Blue Books" filled entirely with print. Maybe cursive was faster for some, but print was fast enough for me and had the added bonus of legibility.

  • Re:Hrrmm... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:50AM (#29487873)

    Wasn't there a very similar story linked to about a month ago called the death of handwriting?

    Nah, not possible. The Slashdot editors are to way sharp to let a duplicate story slip past them.

  • by jedwidz (1399015) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:11AM (#29487991)

    After learning the basics of writing Chinese characters both by hand and by computer, I decided that becoming proficient at handwriting was just not worth it. Sure, it's a very useful skill, but it takes a lot of learning (over a thousand hours) and ultimately doesn't give much benefit.

    With the aid of a computer, you don't need to remember all the components and stroke orders for each character. You just need to know how to pronounce what you want to write, and be able to distinguish between different characters with the same pronunciation at sight. If you can both speak and read, you get the harder skill of writing for free.

    I use my study time for reading instead of writing.

    The same argument can be made against becoming a really proficient speller in English. Really you only need the basics, and be able to deal well with homonyms. Your computer will get you the rest of the way to near-perfect spelling.

  • by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Monday September 21, 2009 @03:11AM (#29488409)

    UTF8 BOM?
    It's only there as a file-type marker.

  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Informative)

    by Canazza (1428553) on Monday September 21, 2009 @03:56AM (#29488553)

    Italics is what I learned in School, in the UK. But then again, I am utterly ham-fisted with a pen and my italics look so bad they almost look like cursive.

  • by markov23 (1187885) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:57AM (#29489441)
    The article hints at the real reason cursive is dying -- and its not because it has only suspect use in our lives --- its because you cant test cursive on the no child left behind exams. Simple math then takes over -- the school looks at how much time they are spending on cursive -- and how much money they will lose if they dont get their scores up in other areas. NCLB is whats going to kill it - I wont miss it -- but its also the first useful non-intended consequence of that particular law.
  • by tixxit (1107127) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:01AM (#29491591)

    Unless you want to deforest the region each time you want to go shopping, compact writing for lists and other one-use writings saves on resources you're otherwise expending for no added value.

    Yes, it is really annoying spending 3h before each trip to the supermarket to write a small booklet of my shopping items for the day. It would be so nice if I could somehow manage to fit my 10 required items onto only 1 sheet of paper, but, alas, I do not know cursive.

  • Re:Hrrmm... (Score:4, Informative)

    by pyrr (1170465) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:37PM (#29492827)

    Cursive has a very specific application, it's a continuous script that keeps spotting to a minimum when using an ink stylus with minimal or no regulation (think quills and fountain pens). That makes it obsolete from a technical standpoint. It's not supposed to be more legible, and it makes flourishes a bit easier to incorporate because it looks like they belong. Printing is pragmatic and it's faster. Cursive script would be best taught in an art class these days. When speed writing (such as taking notes), I either type or print. While I still can write in the cursive script I learned in elementary school, even I can hardly decipher my own cursive if I've scrawled it down fast. Print writing, at least in my case, is far more legible even if hurried.

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