Cursive. Love it or hate it, I support Delaware’s pending legislation to make it mandatory. But at the House Education Committee meeting earlier this month, where the bill was released by the committee, one opponent of the bill was very adamantly against the bill. And she wasn’t even from Delaware. This got my radar up, so I looked into this woman who had such a passion against the bill. What I found shocked even me, and I’ve seen a lot of things writing this blog!
Kate Gladstone spoke very passionately against House Bill 70, sponsored by State Rep. Andria Bennett along with a host of other legislators on both sides of the aisle. Oddly enough, she stands to gain by Delaware not having teachers instruct students on how to write cursive. In 2013, she co-designed an application for iPad called “Read Cursive”. Why go to all that trouble to teach cursive when school districts and charter schools can just buy her app! Problem solved! For someone that is against cursive, I have to wonder how much she stands to gain by not having states pass cursive legislation. In an article on Jetpens.com, Gladstone said:
Even when there is some attempt to do anything about handwriting instruction, too often it is very narrowly focused on the promotion of cursive. In certain state legislatures, people are getting laws passed to mandate that one particular form of handwriting, and unfortunately the lobbyists and legislators involved have been steadily misquoting or otherwise misrepresenting the research on the subject in order to make the research appear to support cursive, when in reality a mix of cursive and print is often more efficient.
Now when the House Education Committee met to discuss this bill, there was nothing on the table about getting rid of regular print in Delaware schools and going to an all-cursive style of writing. I can’t recall any school demanding that in Delaware.
But in the same year, Gladstone wrote an editorial for the New York Times which she also shared on her Facebook page and pretty much everywhere she could. Notice how she promotes the iPad app. A little self-serving, wouldn’t you say? She takes no credit for being the co-designer of this.
Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)
Further research demonstrates that the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the print-writers nor the cursive writers. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.
Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive,” of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?
Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?
Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you stunningly graceful, adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.
The much-ballyhooed difference in SAT scores between cursive writers and non-cursive writers is … brace yourself … 1/5 of a point on the essay exam. That’s all.
(Yes, I checked with the College Board — see below for the source info they sent me — because not one of the many, many media that mention the “slightly higher” difference actually states _how_much_”slightly higher” the difference is. The College Board researchers who found the difference note, in their findings that this one isn’t statistically significant: in other words, it’s so small that it’s less than the difference you’d expect if the same person took the same test twice. In fact, it’s even smaller than the score differences between males and females taking the SAT.)
So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident when others examine the claimed support:
/1/ either the claim provides no traceable source,
/2/ if a source is cited, it is misquoted or is incorrectly described (e.g., an Indiana University research study comparing print-writing with keyboarding is perennially misrepresented by cursive’s defenders as a study “comparing print-writing with cursive”),
/3/ the claimant _correctly_ quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.
What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, then verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
The individuality of print-style (or other non-cursive style) writings is further shown by this: six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the writing on an unsigned assignment) which of her 25 or 30 students wrote it.
All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.
Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.
Handwriting research on speed and legibility:
/1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015
/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf
/3 Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf
Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/…/fil…/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf
College Board research breakdown of SAT scores (the cursive/printing information is on page 5)
Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
(shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
Yours for better letters,
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest
Gladstone put her CV on the internet, which can be seen here:
Can you say “Conflict of Interest”? I sure can. Another digital technology vendor trying to make a profit at the expense of students learning something worthwhile. It reminds me of the scene in Kevin Smith’s movie “Clerks” where a gum salesman tries to convince smokers to stop buying cigarettes: