Intrepidation

Cursive may Disappear

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Charleston resident Kelli Davis was in for a surprise when her daughter brought home some routine paperwork at the start of school this fall. Davis signed the form and then handed it to her daughter for the eighth-grader's signature.

"I just assumed she knew how to do it, but I have a piece of paper with her signature on it and it looks like a little kid's signature," Davis said.

Her daughter was apologetic, but explained that she hadn't been required to make the graceful loops and joined letters of cursive writing in years. That prompted a call to the school and another surprise.

West Virginia's largest school system teaches cursive, but only in the 3rd grade.

"It doesn't get quite the emphasis it did years ago, primarily because of all the technology skills we now teach," said Jane Roberts, assistant superintendent for elementary education in Kanawha County schools.

Davis' experience gets repeated every time parents, who recall their own hours of laborious cursive practice, learn that what used to be called "penmanship" is being shunted aside at schools across the country in favor of 21st century skills.

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.

"We need to make sure they'll be ready for what's going to happen in 2020 or 2030," said Katie Van Sluys, a professor at DePaul University and the president of the Whole Language Umbrella, a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Handwriting is increasingly something people do only when they need to make a note to themselves rather than communicate with others, she said. Students accustomed to using computers to write at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of hours of practicing cursive handwriting.

"They're writing, they're composing with these tools at home, and to have school look so different from that set of experiences is not the best idea," she said.

Text messaging, e-mail, and word processing have replaced handwriting outside the classroom, said Cheryl Jeffers, a professor at Marshall University's College of Education and Human Services, and she worries they'll replace it entirely before long.

"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."

For Jeffers, cursive writing is a lifelong skill, one she fears could become lost to the culture, making many historic records hard to decipher and robbing people of "a gift."

That fear is not new, said Kathleen Wright, national product manager for handwriting at Zaner-Bloser, a Columbus, Ohio-based company that produces a variety of instructional material for schools.

"If you go back, you can see the same conversations came up with the advent of the typewriter," she said.

Every year, Zaner-Bloser sponsors a national handwriting competition for schools, and this year saw more than 200,000 entries, a record.

"Everybody talks about how sometime in the future every kid's going to have a keyboard, but that isn't really true."

Few schools make keyboards available for day-to-day writing. The majority of school work, from taking notes to essay tests, is still done by hand.

At Mountaineer Montessori in Charleston, teacher Sharon Spencer stresses cursive to her first- through third-graders. By the time her students are in the third grade, they are writing book reports and their spelling words in cursive.

To Spencer, cursive writing is an art that helps teach them muscle control and hand-eye coordination.

"In the age of computers, I just tell the children, what if we are on an island and don't have electricity? One of the ways we communicate is through writing," she said.

But cursive is favored by fewer college-bound students. In 2005, the SAT began including a written essay portion, and a 2007 report by the College Board found that about 15 percent of test-takers chose to write in cursive, while the others wrote in print.

That was probably smart, according to Vanderbilt University professor Steve Graham, who cites multiple studies showing that sloppy writing routinely leads to lower grades, even in papers with the same wording as those written in a neater hand.

Graham argues that fears over the decline of handwriting in general and cursive in particular are distractions from the goal of improving students' overall writing skills. The important thing is to have students proficient enough to focus on their ideas and the composition of their writing rather than how they form the letters.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that 26 percent of 12th graders lack basic proficiency in writing, while two percent were sufficiently skilled writers to be classified as "advanced."

"Handwriting is really the tail wagging the dog," Graham said.

Besides, it isn't as if all those adults who learned cursive years ago are doing their writing with the fluent grace of John Hancock.

Most people peak in terms of legibility in 4th grade, Graham said, and Wright said it's common for adults to write in a cursive-print hybrid.

"People still have to write, even if it's just scribbling," said Paula Sassi, a certified master graphologist and a member of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation.

"Just like when we went from quill pen to fountain pen to ball point, now we're going from the art of handwriting to handwriting purely as communication," she said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090919/ap_on_...s_cursive_angst

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That is strange to think about how cursive is slowly being phased out. I learned cursive quite extensively it seemed for a good portion of my elementary school (even partially middle school I think) life. I haven't written in cursive in ages. I could probably pick it up again if I truly wanted (I'm an all caps writer currently) but right now it is reserved as the loose base for my signature which has pretty much evolved into a scribble.

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I'm one of those "print/cursive hybrid" folks, and even that is rare anymore. Writing at work is either all-caps or upper and lower case printing. And my signature is pretty much something like this: W____ W__.

We're losing so much identity with this advancing technology.

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It's so sad but true... I had a kid sign his name on the state test... he had to cross his name out twice and rewrite it because he wrote it wrong.

Students handwriting in general is atrocious. I can't write in cursive on the blackboard because some can't read it, and I have beautiful handwriting.

I was one of those anal guys (shut up) who always had awesome handwriting, but that's partly because my parents were so strict about it. I was surprised when I returned to school for my Spanish certification, when I started taking notes I wrote in script... when I did my undergrad and masters, like Nick I wrote in all caps.

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Do you have "teacher's handwriting"? It's funny how homogeneous (shut up) teacher's handwriting is.
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I did not write well in cursive at all. I got in trouble for that. I remember my second grade teacher kicking the back of my chair and saying "sit in posture" She would make me rewrite and rewrite. I used to sit there and cry. It was not just that grade. When I was in art class in the 7th grade, my art teacher understood. She said there are people who print all the time. She said you should print and use art to help you. I then from that day forward print everything. People tell me I have the best handwriting in print. They like it. I use art to help me. I cannot write in cursive. When I sign my name it is in print, but I sway it to the right so it looks like the letters are in cursive or the letters are running.

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I was one of those guys who always had awesome handwriting

Yep, +1, and draftsmanlike printing as well.

A couple of things:

(1) the nuns made sure you practiced your handwriting, and

(2) in Europe (well, I can speak for Italy) there is little, if any, gender-stereotype association made with penmanship as is idiotically done in America. I've stumbled onto foreign letters written to my parents from a wide cross-section of people and their handwriting is excellent, if not fairly uniform in appearance (it looks "European"). So, then, handwriting, in that culture, is indicative of good-breeding and education, from what I can see. Also, look at the Declaration of Independence, what a showcase of good penmanship!

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I've written mostly in cursive since third grade. Cursive is faster for me to write when taking notes, but my handwriting is legible pretty much only to myself. Print on the other hand is slower for me, but much easier to read, so I use that if someone else is going to read it (or I want to be absolutely sure of what I've written). We all learned the same D'Nealian handwriting method at my school, but everyone still ended up with unique handwriting, both in print and cursive.

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I was one of those anal guys (shut up) who always had awesome handwriting, but that's partly because my parents were so strict about it. I was surprised when I returned to school for my Spanish certification, when I started taking notes I wrote in script... when I did my undergrad and masters, like Nick I wrote in all caps.

I was as well. My cursive is awesome even though I sometimes feel like it's deteriorating because I never write anymore. And when I do write, it's mostly in print. I took drafting classes, so I learned how to print really well too. While in school I got a lot of compliments on my half cursive half print notes because they looked so cool.

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I have 3 writing styles.

My cursive tends to be very vertical & compressed, and I only use it 'to myself'.

I have a... sloppy all-caps style I likewise use 'to myself' - the usage of either is completely random & without reason.

Then I have a neat, completely legible print style I write for others to read.

My signature changed a bit a few years ago - I now only use my first initial, but I write every letter of my (11-character) last name.

I could write any way I would want to - I went to school for graphic design & industrial design, and have done countless pieces of technical & creative art over the years. I've also designed my own fonts.

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I grade school I had to learn and use cursive from 2nd to 8th grade. However, once I got to high school it was never a requirement. Besides my stylized signature I haven't written in cursive in years.

I still write things down all the time, just never in cursive. It always seemed like more work than needed to write a note or make a list.

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I learned cursive in 3rd grade and haven't used it since. To be honest it's a very rare day when I write anything by hand--I bet in the relatively near future they won't teach handwriting at all in school.

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That would be pretty pathetic if people couldn't even print by hand.

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I'm one of those "print/cursive hybrid" folks, and even that is rare anymore. Writing at work is either all-caps or upper and lower case printing. And my signature is pretty much something like this: W____ W__.

My writing style is similar... a hybrid... 80% print, 20% cursive...

My cursive writing was always atrocious... some of my teachers explained that it can occur when ones mind is running faster than the hand can write... I do write fast... perhaps the mind is still trying to go faster. I do the same thing while typing... where I'll have words drop out or even phrases or clauses... but few typos.

During my senior year of HS, we had a couple (IMHO) progressive teachers who were more interested in making learning easier than sticking to draconian discipline. One student asked the teacher if he could print, as he apparently disliked cursive. I've been doing my hybrid ever since.

Of course, my writing also incorporates fonts, of sorts. The logic behind this is to create distinctive looking notes... as I usually do not actually memorize facts in some classes, but what the pages of notes looked like... then I would just visually read the notes in my mind's eye during the quiz.

The only thing I've written in cursive in the last 10 years is my signature.

Pretty much the same here... I only cursive on checks and my signature. But now I do most of my bill paying electronically... so I am worried now that my my cursive writing will fall apart now, as I sign very few documents or artwork regularly.

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I was taught cursive in 3rd/4th grade, but kept getting in trouble because mine wasn't very good. The teachers sent me to the 'special' class so I could continue learning it while the rest of the class went to gym. Naturally, this pissed me off so I just refused to learn to it, and continued to print.

Till this day, I still think cursive is bull$h! and not terribly efficient for a lot of readers, especially for those people whose second language is English and are from Asia.

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I only know two people my age that write in cursive on a regular basis, and they have some of the worst handwriting as far as legibility goes. My grandparents still write in cursive quite a bit. I never use cursive anymore, but I can still do it even if it's not as fast as I can print. My printing is also sort of a hybird...I tend to connect t's and e's a lot, or double e's.

Here's a sample of my chicken scratch

testng.jpg

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I haven't written anything besides my signature in cursive probably in 12-15 years or more... Even then, though, any papers I wrote were done with a word processor (MS Word for college and LaTeX for grad school academic papers and journal articles). Anything I've written corporate has been w/ MS Word. Cursive handwriting is definitely a lost art.

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I use hybrid writing simply because I have a lot of wrist pain from being on the computer too much.

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I'm weird... I interchange between cursive and print.

When in grad school, I would use cursive when taking notes in my culture or literature classes... but print when in my linguistics classes. In church I take notes in cursive too.

I use print everywhere else, but my wife complains that my print is too messy. Of course, she also complains that my cursive is too small. I can't win. :P

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My notes I take at work in meetings, on sticky notes, roughing out a design, etc are a mix of print and cursive (my penmanship used to be quite good in school, but it's more of a scrawl now). Though strangely, when I print, I find that I often write with a mix of upper and lower case letters--- lIkE tHiS...

At home, about the only writing I do are shopping lists on sticky notes..pretty much anything else I need to write I do on the computer.

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If I'm actually writing (lyrics, poetry, prose, etc.) I always write in cursive. It is the fastest way from my brain to the page.

Lists and short notes I sometimes print, but any real writing I do in cursive.

If my typing skills were any good, I would probably write with my keyboard but I'm way too slow.

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Cursive is pretty obsolete. I remember spending lots of time doing penmanship in grade school that could be better spent in other ways.

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Cursive is pretty obsolete. I remember spending lots of time doing penmanship in grade school that could be better spent in other ways.

Yup, let it become a lost art. Being able to write in print by hand is important IMO, but cursive is a wasted add-on. It's usually too hard to read, and for someone to learn it well enough that it's not too hard to read would require ridiculous amounts of time that would be better spent studying science, art, math, etc, or even just proper use of the english language. The quote about not every kid will have a keyboard made me laugh. I would guess it's around 75% now, and will be in the high ninties within ten years in the US. Even the very poor are more & more able to get a secondhand computer for next to nothing, as a 4+ year old computer anymore is worth next to nothing in this market. Those old computers that seem very outdated to most people are still very functional as a basic web browser and word processor.

Not only do I type most of my communication aside from small notes to myself, but anymore it's rare that I even print anything out. E-mail, text documents, and other electronic communication are the majority.

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