Most issues have a least two sides. In this Counterpoint column, different opinions are shared on common questions.
Make better use of classroom time
I know how to read and write in cursive. My mother made me learn when I was in third grade, and I willingly did so because I was promised a stuffed animal in return. My fourth-grade teacher also attempted to teach my class cursive, but was sadly met with overwhelming resistance.
I firmly believe that if an art class chooses to do a unit on cursive, that is fantastic. I think cursive is beautiful, and I completely understand the way it can light up certain areas of our brains, like other art forms. But in regular curriculum, I do not believe it should be taught. This is simply because I think there are more productive, challenging and stimulating lessons on which educators could be spending their classroom time.
What specifically comes to mind is a tool that, upon entering high school, I wished my fourth-grade teacher had taught instead of cursive: foreign language. I am now almost fluent in French, and I feel that my brain is stronger, and entirely new worlds are now open to me. To offer another example, elementary schools spend a shocking amount of time teaching science; that is to say, almost none.
Education is already a race against the clock, and I don't see a reason to add cursive to the burden. As I’ve previously stated, I’ve only had to use cursive to sign a couple of documents and for that dreaded, required-cursive statement on the PSAT. Personally, as a student that is affected by curriculum, I would rather time be spent on useful and stimulating concepts, like a foreign language, that could widen the job market for my generation. I can form my signature on my own. Few people use proper cursive for that anyway.
Rebecca Hollister is a senior at Leavenworth High School.
Continue to teach cursive writing
In the age of electronic communication, cursive writing may seem passe, unfashionable or downright useless. I disagree. My learning style involves writing ideas and facts down, then organizing the content. I am not alone.
Researchers have found connections between writing by hand and everything from language skills to memory to critical thinking. Students who take notes by hand perform better on conceptual questions than students who take notes on laptops. Students who type their notes tend to transcribe and to process the information only on a shallow level. Students who take notes by hand actually digest the content and reframe it in their own words, a process that increases both understanding and recall.
Teaching writing, then, builds more than communication skills. It builds learning skills. Cursive writing instruction provides more than penmanship. Students learn spelling and grammar, along with a number of high-level skills: organization, strategy, the ability to formulate dialogue and be understood by a reader on complicated topics.
Brain studies show that writing letters involves more advanced brain function than communicating on a screen. Preliterate children who actually wrote a letter showed brain activation used by adults in reading and writing, while children who produced the letter on a screen did not. In fact, cursive writing has more neurological benefits than printing because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation.
It has been found that the connected letters and fluid motion of cursive handwriting are especially beneficial to students with disorders such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Rather than discarding old-fashioned writing as antiquated in the modern age and leaving little time for handwriting instruction in the primary grades, I hope that cursive writing, like music and athletics, drama and art will remain an integral part of the legacy we pass on to our children.
Marti Crow is a Leavenworth Times columnist.