Does A Critic Of Delaware’s Cursive Bill Have Something To Gain By The Bill NOT Passing?

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.

For instance:

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,

or

/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”),

or

/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.

SOURCES:

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)
http://www.collegeboard.com/…/c…/yr2006/cbs-2006_release.pdf
Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g

TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To

HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
(shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0
Yours for better letters,
Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
and the World Handwriting Contest
http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

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:

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16 thoughts on “Does A Critic Of Delaware’s Cursive Bill Have Something To Gain By The Bill NOT Passing?

  1. So you’re going to go after someone who designed one iPad app, and not mention that Zaner-Bloser and any other curriculum vendor has much to gain from the requirement that everyone learn cursive. All those workbooks. They don’t supply them for free. You have much to learn about balanced reporting. Of the four people in my household, no one uses cursive. My husband is a research physician with over 100 scientific papers to his name, my daughter is pursuing an MD/PhD, I have a degree in mathematics, and my son has a learning difference that makes cursive torture rather than useful. We all choose NOT to use it.
    That choice has not affected our ability to function in the world AT ALL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That may be the case in your household. My own special needs son does like writing cursive better. Not saying it is for everyone. When I was taught cursive, the teacher taught it. No text book necessary.

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    2. The author also overlooks the fact that being a co-designer of one minor phone-app can’t bring in nearly as much income as Gladstone’s regular job, mentioned in her CV, which is *repairing the handwriting* of countless people whose handwriting is illegible — because they were taught to write school-standard (properly called Palmer Method) cursive.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To be precise, Lesley, the school-standard form as of today are _descendants_ of Palmer Method (descendants that resemble their ancestor to varying degrees, though admittedly often quite closely). The Palmer Method publisher (the A. N. Palmer Company) folded in 1986, after a half-century of gradual (then accelerating) decline. Also some enterprising teachers of cursive have taken it upon themselves to reproduce the old books from existing materials, most of the cursive teaching in the USA is not Palmer Method (when it comes to particular identifiable details of letter formation) and has not been Palmer Method for decades. The above is simply to set the record straight, because calling every school-standard cursive “Palmer Method” is like calling every brown carbonated soft drink a “Coke.” The biggest difference between calling a present-day cursive “Palmer Method” and calling a Pepsi a “Coke” is that the A. N. Palmer Company is no longer around to object if they hear about their name being applied to someone else’s product.

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  2. When you mandate it, that is saying it’s for everyone. Many people gravitate to a connected print style of writing which requires no training to either read or produce. There are too many “mandated” topics handed down by legislatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At the House Education Committee meeting, many were in favor of student’s learning cursive but felt it should be a decision left to the local school board. The problem is most districts are too trapped in Common Core and Smarter Balanced to even care. I support the bill.

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  3. Exceptional Delaware deserves my thanks for carefully reprinting, in full, my argument and it’s supporting data. (My business has improved. Thank you!)

    The piece claims a conflict of interest, based on the fact that I not only have an opinion on handwriting, I teach the subject and sell resources for teaching and studying it. (Perhaps they’d prefer to have the subject, and opinions about it, presented and discussed only by those who do not teach it or help others to do so.)

    If “conflict of interest” presented a true concern for the writer of that blog, the piece would also have explored the fact that the bill I oppose (to mandate cursive handwriting for everybody) is strongly supported by million-dollar corporations which publish courses and textbooks for the teaching of cursive handwriting. The author’s failure to address both sides of the matter says much — and says it very clearly.

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  4. Am I missing something? How is it in the financial interest of someone who makes a teaching app, for that subject NOT to be taught? Isn’t it the other way around? Wouldn’t school districts be more likely to buy an app for something they have to teach than for something they don’t? Wouldn’t parents be more likely to buy an app for something their children have to master than for something they don’t?

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  5. So, leave it to the local school board. I, personally, would rather my kids have spent their time learning how to write a reasoned argument, or play a musical instrument or increase their math skills than learn cursive.
    Most of the arguments for cursive include romanticizing the “good old days” when life was all perfect. Maybe it was, for some. For many, it was far from perfect.
    Lots of people have mobile apps that help their business. We aren’t talking about an app that has sold on the level of “Angry Birds”.
    There are more things on the App Store to learn cursive than to learn to just read it. To be honest, my son can’t read it. He’s in high school, gets reasonable grades and the fact that he doesn’t know this dying piece of history has absolutely no effect on him. He can still learn about anything he wants to and no one ever sends him hand written letters in cursive. I’m in my 50’s and no one sends me handwritten letters in cursive. I have multiple hobbies, several of which have resources in printed form, and guess what, none of them are in cursive. I worked in corporate America for some time, and never used cursive. I am perfectly capable of cursive or print handwriting, yet when I write notes to myself, I print. It’s faster, and it’s more legible.
    I think you are pining for some nostalgic era where all the little children learned perfect penmanship and everything was right with the world. Except it wasn’t. Get over it.

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      1. Legal signatures don’t require cursive — see https://www.bing.com/search?q=legally%2C+signatures+don%27t+require+cursive&go=Search — and I routinely sign checks although I wtopped using cursive for my signature (and other handwriting) thirty years ago.
        Several elementary school teachers and administrators have admitted to me that, although hey are aware through their legal counsel of the fact that cursive forms no part of what makes a signature legally valid or identifiable, they prefer to teach children that signatures must be in cursive to be legal and identifiable, because they have found the teaching of this belief as fact to be useful or even indispensable for persuading the children to write in cursive, which must be accomplished because the school administration is required (by state law, or by its own contract with a textbook publisher) to buy and use textbooks which teach cursive and which require being completed in cursive. It would be interesting to see the opinions of the owner of “Exceptional Delaware,” and of commenters on this blog, about whether teaching incorrect information at school (because it eases the use of a textbook purchased under contract or mandate, or for any other reason) is legitimate.

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  6. Kevin Ohlandt asked a good question — whether Zaner-Bloser, Inc. (a cursive textbook publisher) has had any employee(s) testify to the Delaware legislature as part of the Delaware House Education Committee’s recent hearings about the cursive mandate bill in that state. Although I have not yet been able to get that information about Delaware or a couple of the other states where cursive mandate bills are currently before the legislature, looking at the histories of cursive mandate bills — beginning in 2012 when such bills suddenly began to appear before state legislature (often simultaneously in many states, though the bills were in each case claimed to have been independently introduced) — reveals that, in literally every state where it has been possible to find out who was testifying before the Legislature (in other words, in the majority of states which introduced a cursive mandate bill), those giving testimony included one of more representatives (on payroll) of at least one cursive handwriting publisher, generally an employee of the Zaner-Bloser Corporation. Further, in at least one state (North Carolina), newspaper investigation and other investigation into the underpinnings of the curse of mandate bill in that state revealed that, when constituents or others wrote to the state senator who had introduced the bill (in order to ask questions, to determine the sources of statistics and other information which had been used by the state senator in her introduction of the bill, and so forth), the state senator’s office referred all such inquiries to a third party ( represented as an independent educational expert who have “advised” the Senate tour in writing the bill) who turned out to be a sales representative (on payroll) of the Zaner-Bloser corporation, using her company e-mail address at Zaner-Blossr as her contact address for this purpose.

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    1. I’ve heard of a lot of personal crusades. You have yet to convince me why your crusade against cursive writing is worth all this massive output of time and energy. Cursive has been around for centuries. You seem to be more in favor of digital technology in the classroom which will eventually weed out true instruction.

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      1. No, I like handwriting at least as much as I like digital technology. (Otherwise, I would not be — among other things — a calligrapher.)

        Understanding the value of handwriting has not convinced me that the handwriting must be cursive.

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