KIDS CAN’T WRITE IN CURSIVE – SURPRISE! THEY ALSO CAN’T WRITE – SURPRISE!
Experts and parents seem united: children should learn to write cursive. Experts trot out numerous studies and brain-scan results to support this position. Kids who can write cursive have bigger vocabularies. They express more ideas. They write more quickly than those who use a keyboard. They tells us that handwriting better engages the brain than reading on a keyboard.
A cursory search on Goggle will bring you dozens of results corroborating this. Parents express the same thing, albeit in non-scientific terms.
In other words, education experts and parents know there’s a serious problem with how our kids are taught to write in school today, and that the elimination of cursive from the curriculum is a symptom of that erosion of skills.
It is not my intention to summarize the scientific data or the collective parental angst that’s out there.
Don’t believe me — Google it.
Instead, I’d like to focus on the idea that cursive, or handwriting, is an essential skill for children. The decision to drop it was based on the erroneous notion that the computer makes cursive irrelevant.
Myth Number 1: The keyboard is faster.
Using a keyboard is faster if quality of writing is not the issue. Emails, routine correspondence, even short pieces of text are best done on the computer. At issue is efficiency and distributions — business issues — and so the sensible course of action is to use the keyboard for those things.
When quality comes into the equation the keyboard’s advantages fade away. The connection between the pen and the paper is undeniable. You make far fewer spelling mistakes when you write. Your ideas flow more quickly and are more unified. Your concentration level is higher – a fact experienced by anyone who reads with both an e-reader and physical books.
If you want to write well, you should use a pen and paper. Perhaps when you have hit adulthood the gap between written and keyboarded text narrows, but for kids that gap is enormous. The skills acquired at a young age by learning to write in cursive, skills identified undeniably by science — and I’d suggest common sense — will stand our kids in good stead for the rest of their lives. If those skills are not developed at a young age they disappear forever — like learning a language. The opportunity for deep writing learning is gone as their kid brains harden into adulthood.
Myth Number 2: Kids need to master keyboard skills.
Do you know any kids that can’t use a computer?
Do you know any kids that can’t use a keyboard?
Do you know any kids that can type as fast as someone over the age of 50, that is, people who learned to type on a typewriter?
Case closed. It’s a stupid argument – and so fallacious as to get my blood boiling.
Myth Number 3: The educational experts know what’s best.
This myth underpins the decision to dispense with cursive in the first place. The experts created an educational system that serves them, not the students. It provides them with jobs, conferences to attend to, papers to write, and curriculums to revise, expand upon, and complicate. They got rid of cursive because it didn’t suit their expert agenda, which is to create work for them to do. They’re not against cursive — they just don’t need it to further their agenda.
The current labour unrest among teachers is, in my view, rooted in this myth. Teaching is unsatisfying because the system has made it so. A ridiculous curriculum that emphasises stuffing information down the throats of our kids, ignores the principle of deep learning, and favours quick technological fixes has made teaching a maddening profession. Over several decades this dissatisfaction has become institutionalized, which has resulted in teachers turning to matters unrelated to teaching: money, prep time, class size, sick leave, pension benefits, holidays. I suggest many of the younger teachers don’t really understand why they are unhappy, which is why they so readily vote to strike.
They are tired of so-called experts telling them what to do. They are tired of experts telling them cursive is pointless – when self-evidently it is not.
So will bringing cursive back solve the problem of kids and literacy? Obviously, not.
Do you believe your kids read and write very well? I’m guessing you don’t — and all the research and science backs me up here.
Can we just use the common sense test? You write better with a pen and paper, and cursive is the fastest, most efficient form of writing.
And now my confession. My handwriting was, and remains, terrible. Teachers complained so much that I reverted to printing in grade 8, and now I have lost the ability to write in cursive. I lost the ability. Our kids never even get the chance. I say that’s wrong.
Now here’s my redemption. The first draft of all my books are written by hand. I then input them into the computer (revision one), read then over a couple times — and then submit them to the publisher.
Are there any writers out there who are that efficient using a computer for their first draft?