Cursive Handwriting Falls Victim to the Common Core

The Washington Post reports that cursive handwriting is disappearing from public schools.

The curlicue letters of cursive handwriting, once considered a mainstay of American elementary education, have been slowly disappearing from classrooms for years. Now, with most states adopting new national standards that don’t require such instruction, cursive could soon be eliminated from most public schools.

For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and notepads. Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype.

And educators, seeking to prepare students for a successful future in which computer and typing skills have usurped penmanship,are finding cursive’s relevance waning,especially with leaner school budgets and curricula packed with standardized testing prep. So they’re opting not to teach it anymore.

We’re not surprised since the Common Core State Standards don’t address or require cursive handwriting.  After all why teach something that’s “irrelevant” right?

Since we all know these standards are “well researched” and “internationally benchmarked” I’m sure they didn’t overlook the recent study that shows how handwriting helps with learning how to write, spell, and how it helps with things like motor skills.

Besides do they really think we’re always going to have a laptop, phone or tablet to take notes on?  Handwriting is a building block to learning and it shouldn’t be ignored.

Shane Vander Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Christian conservative blog in Iowa. He is also the President of 4:15 Communications, a social media & communications consulting/management firm, along with serving as the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative.  Prior to this Shane spent 20 years in youth ministry serving in church, parachurch, and school settings.  He has taught Jr. High History along with being the Dean of Students for Christian school in Indiana.  Shane and his wife home school their three teenage children and have done so since the beginning.   He has recently been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the top political influencers in Iowa. Shane and his family reside near Des Moines, IA.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Google +.

6 Responses to Cursive Handwriting Falls Victim to the Common Core

  1. kategladstone says:

    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 — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as 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.

    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 cursive and 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, the 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 at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, a few months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students 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

    /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

    /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

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:



    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works •

  2. Leslie Fish says:

    How did we ever get brainwashed into thinking that “Cursive” (more precisely, Palmer-Method) is the *only* form of script-writing, or even handwriting itself? What we call “Cursive” is ONLY ONE FORM of script writing, and very far from the best of them. Our great state papers were written in a form called Copperplate, the Mayflower Compact was written in Italic, Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written in English Secretary — and all these documents are perfectly readable today. All of them (Italic especially) are much clearer, easier to learn, quicker to teach, and keep their legibility far longer after the student leaves school.

    “Cursive”, on the other hand, has a nasty tendency to degenerate into that illegible scribble for which doctors are so notorious (but unfortunately not alone), which has *caused thousands of deaths* from “medical error”; just ask any nurse or pharmacist. It was invented at the same time as the public school system, by a greedy opportunist named Palmer who sold school materials and lobbied his way into a monopoly on selling his goods to the public schools. He invented that loopty-loopty writing form, where all letters have to be connected, because he believed that this all-letters-joined style would make children think they were irrevocably linked to each other — and that if everybody wrote alike, they would think alike. What he produced was a really wretched form of writing that indeed made everybody alike — in having bad handwriting.

    Yes, by all means, teach penmanship in the public schools — but for heaven’s sake, choose a better form than this! If only for all the lives it has cost us, “Cursive” deserves to die.

    • kategladstone says:

      A slight correction of fact — Palmer did not “invent” joining all the letters: he was not the first to teach it, or to recommend it. Joining all letters was already “business as usual” by his time: where he got outright ideological, in handwriting, was in his insistence that everyone must use exactly the same rhythms in handwriting, that everybody of a certain chronological age must write at exactly the same size and speed as everyone else of the same age, and so on. His curriculum, in its earliest and purest firm, emphasized having everyone in the classroom writing in exact and metronome-like synchrony with everyone else in the group as they all wrote the same exercise together, with a given stroke in a given letter of a given word being made at exactly the same moment by all the students in the room.
      Palmer believed that this was important because (he supposed) it would force different people, with their differing thoughts and ideas and backgrounds, to become mentally quite alike through writing alike. His teaching materials and publicity went on and on about how this was the only way to instill “Americanism”: especially in immigrants. The only way, he thought, that people with different ideas and preferences and backgrounds could live together would be if they all became alike and eradicated their differences … and he believed that an essential tool of accomplishing this was to get different people to move their bodies alike, according to some standard “American” pattern … which — he believed — could best be accomplished by teaching them to form their writing through some standardized “American” way to move their arms, their hands, and thus their pens … a pattern which he was only too glad to sell. (You can read the disturbing details in HANDWRITING IN AMERICA: A CULTURAL HISTORY by Tamara Plakins Thornton: the chapter on Palmer Method quite disturbingly documents the ideological and other explicit connections between Palmer Method beliefs/practices and certain firms of collectivism which were culturally taking hold.)
      Oh, and Palmer died a millionaire, because of this, right before the Great Depression: in terms of the purchasing power of the dollar, this would equal being a billionaire in our inflated dollars today.

    • kategladstone says:

      Regarding the handwriting style that Shakespeare learned as a boy (English Secretary script) — today! that one is “perfectly legible” _only_ to specialists.

      Samples are here:

      Partway through Shakespeare’s life, Englishmen and -women began to replace their traditional English Secretary with a continental import called italic. Here is some italic: Renaissance-era and later …
      Back then, no doubt, there were people who assumed that the new generation, taught such a simple writing instead of the old traditional complications, was doomed to ignorance, illiteracy, and cultural regression. Shakespeare’s plays survive nonetheless.

      When you wail and gnash your teeth and howl “Illiterate!” because someone who doesn’t write cursive hasn’t been taught to read it either … do you raise the same accusation against yourself because you would be likewise unable to read Shakespeare’s plays or (for that matter) the meeting-minutes of the King James Bible translation committee?

  3. kategladstone says:

    I should also mention that the logo for the Cape County Tea Party (at the top of the web-page) comes much closer to what we actually know about the performance of effective handwriters than to Palmer Method or any other form of conventional cursive (that which joins all the letters, and so on).

  4. bbollmann says:

    I appreciate the good information. One of my reasons for wishing to preserve cursive is for our progeny to be able to read our founding documents. Which writing style do you consider those documents to have used?

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