Every day at my office I put the date, a greeting, and a new vocabulary word on the white board for my students. Yes, I prefer to WRITE rather than print this information. But recently I’ve become concerned because an increasing number of my students claim that they can’t read the words unless I include a printed version. Cursive is natural for me because I learned script in parochial elementary school. The nuns were quite favorable to the Palmer method, so we endured hours of practice each year and even participated in penmanship contests. As a teacher and administrator, I’ve had a great deal of experience writing on boards of multiple colors (black, green, white) in various school settings, so I know that my writing is legible. Clearly, this discipline is no longer included in the curricula of most schools, and it’s not part of the Common Core. I devoted a blog to this issue over a year ago, and the debate about the usefulness of what some view as an archaic method of communication continues.
The title of a recent article in the online Atlantic demonstrates the emotion that sometimes accompanies this issue: “Learning Cursive is a Basic Right,” written by a parochial high school teacher, states her belief quite clearly. “The signature, the ability to sign one’s own name with grace and confidence, has long been an essential marker of society. . . Cursive has become a status marker.” That may very well be true. A friend of mine recently told me that her first grade grandson, enrolled in a Montessori school in California, is REQUIRED to use cursive for his assignments. Yes, first grade! I have found that my students who have difficulty printing often find the cursive easier because they can keep their pen on the page, so the process is easier, and the letters look smoother.
Furthermore, the inability to write cursive is a detriment for high school students taking the PSAT and SAT. New security measures require each student to complete a statement written in cursive that they have not cheated. I have asked several of my high school students what they do when confronted with this task, especially under already anxiety-producing circumstances. A few have told me that they print the note and then connect the letters. Since the day is already fraught with tension, this seemingly simple task certainly puts these students at a disadvantage.
Anyone motivated enough to learn cursive can do so at no expense with a little practice. Examples abound in workbooks and online. Learn now to be able to access historical documents and sign important documents. It’s not too late!