Today’s increased reliance on technology — for everything from writing to communicating on mobile phones to withdrawing money from the bank — has some people considering whether it makes sense to continue teaching kids cursive writing. They — many of them educators — contend that today’s elementary students need to learn so many other things on top of reading, writing and arithmetic, that they don’t have time to focus on a little-used life skill during the preciously short classroom time.

In one Ottawa fourth-grade class, 90 minutes is spent on reading; 90 minutes with math; and an additional 30 minutes daily for Extended Learning (remedial or enrichment work based on need in reading). Add to that spelling, grammar, science, social studies, technology, music and physical education and the day is almost gone. Some teachers believe a higher priority should be placed on teaching children how to use written language to express themselves in a clear manner rather than on cursive writing.

“It is far more important for our students to come away adept with skills they will need in the future. Being able to read and analyze text, to problem-solve and use technology should be our priorities,” one Ottawa fourth-grade teacher said.

Others say not teaching elementary school students cursive writing can stunt their eye-and-coordination development, as well as ensure that kids won’t know how to read cursive writing either. Cursive writing is an element that can be incorporated into other lessons, such as English and other writing exercises, rather than just being a standalone lesson. Not knowing cursive writing could have an impact down the road for students when they aren’t able to take notes as quickly or even read their own writing because they haven’t learned the spatial skills necessary with cursive writing.

Classroom time is limited, but eliminating this skill set has broader effects than just writing. Cursive writing is said to enhance spelling abilities because it “creates muscle memories,” according to Samuel L. Blumenfeld, an author and academic specializing in youth, literacy and education.

In a recent unscientific online Herald poll, more than 90 percent of respondents said they didn’t want teachers to replace cursive handwriting lessons with more instruction on keyboarding and technology. While no formal vote is expected to occur on this topic anytime soon, we all can expect to see some kind of handwriting on the proverbial wall about this topic on school board curriculum agendas in the near future.

We hope this important skill doesn’t go away. Perhaps handwriting needs to move into the always-maligned art classes since cursive soon might be considered an art rather than a necessity.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher