Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The collapse of cursive

My wife heard the following news and took it as a sign of the end.  I think society has bigger fish to fry, but it is indicative of something that cursive is no longer being taught after centuries of its use.  What, I'm not sure.

Discovery News: Cursive is Dead!

Just a few short years ago, cursive was something all kids were taught in schools. Not anymore! In many parts of the country, cursive is becoming a dead relic of the past. But Laci shows us why educators might be smart to keep teaching kids those loopy letters.
With the decline of cursive, I wonder if the next technological development will work as well.

LiveScience: Device Uses Handwriting to Detect Neurological Disorders
Bobbie Mixon, National Science Foundation
July 26, 2013 02:22pm ET
Each year, more than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system, causing tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement and loss of balance. Detecting it can be difficult, however, especially in early stages. Now, to detect and study neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, researchers have built a system that records signals from hand muscles during handwriting.

Motor neurons transmit electrical signals to muscles to make them contract. Electromyography (EMG) is a process that records and graphs such electrical activity to yield information about the condition of a subject's muscles and the nerve cells that control them. In the new detection system, a test subject attaches EMG surface electrodes to his or her hand and wears a glove to hold the electrodes in place. The subject then writes on a tablet, repeating simple, stereotyped hand movements that involve two basic motor components: firmly holding a pen by the fingers and moving the hand and the fingers to produce written text. The results are collected from both the tablet and the surface EMG electrodes.
Handwriting and health--that's not a connection one thinks about every day!


  1. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    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. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

    Adults increasingly abandon 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 most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, 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.

    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!)

    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/ 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

    /2/ 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:



    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

    1. This is the kind of comment I dream about--on-topic, well written, informative, and with a clear point of view. I wish all those who left comments were as good as you.

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  2. Get real! "Cursive" is just one style of script, and far from the best. Italic, Copperplate, Blackletter, etc. are all faster, more legible and easier to teach than Cursive -- which is notorious for producing illegible handwriters, like doctors.

    --Leslie <;)))>< Fish

    1. Most doctors are *taught* to make their hand writing illegible. If no one can read it, it's much harder to prosecute mistakes made on the part of the physician. Of course, it makes for nightmares for the nurses trying to carry out those illegible orders...mistakes abound.

    2. Leslie, thanks for listing the other scripts. I learned something.

      Tinfoilhatsociety, I have a Ph.D., so I'm a doctor, but not *that* kind of doctor. Just the same, I have doctor's handwriting. The only person who could read it easily was my ex-wife, who is a nurse. Go figure!

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