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My son's 4th grade teacher wants parents to spend $10 for each kid so they can get a book to learn to write in cursive. While I appreciate her gumption in keeping cursive alive I wonder if that's the best use of very limited funds. What do you think?
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First, they don't need a book to learn cursive. Second, they don't need to learn cursive.
I think it's sad that it's no longer part of the curriculum. I also think it's going to be a sign of a better educated individual in the future.
Even though I love cursive handwriting, is it really relevant for kids these days? Perhaps it's time to move on.
Cursive is dying. It'll be considered a "lost art" form in a generation or two.
I think learning to write in cursive brings the letters together to form words with meaning, and words together form thoughts. Thoughts beget ideas and creativity. And, since our signatures are in cursive, it also brings a sense of identity.
Writing by hand engages a different part of the brain than typing. Writing cursive is different to writing 'normal' (or whatever they call what they currently teach). Good handwriting is very important, still. I think it's worth learning. I'd pay the money for my daughter to be taught it, if that's what was required.
Take a look at Steve Jobs Standford Graduation Ceremony speech and tell me the value of writing. Yes. Cursive is still an Art form.

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

So while it is less relevant, it is turning on nuerons in the brain that allow our kids to be more creative and come up with great innovations in the future. Can you imagine if Steve Jobs would have never learned type fonts?
lol, unnecessary. She's such a romantic...which is fine but let her use it on her own time instead of wasting your son's, not too mention her own dime if she's so adamant about cursive not becoming extinct.
I don't remember having a book from which to learn cursive; but I do think it's worth learning.
Remember when cursive was used as a way to communicate and make letters/words look more legible (term papers etc)? Now it's just being used as an Art class project. Just another thing to add to the school budget for (which keeps getting slashed every year anyway). Math still has very pretty shapes and symbols. Let's focus on how pretty Math is because last time I checked American youth need it more than ever if they want to compete against the onslaught of Chinese and Indian players coming, dominating in every market we have right now....
Kids need to learn cursive. It's a crime that schools don't have the budgets they need for things like this. Seriously, we have to give people making > $1 million a year a tax break but we can't afford to teach kids cursive??? Any kid growing up in our culture unable to read or write cursive is cut off from being able to read many generations worth of handwritten documents, and would be at a huge disadvantage.

This shouldn't need to be debated. We've completely lost our moral compass as a nation if we can't even figure out something as simple as this.
Who knew my rural PA school my kids go to would have more "electives" than a school in San Fran. I think the lack of cursive in school is not a good thing. If for no other reason how are kids supposed to read letters from their grandparents (who will still write in cursive and actually use the Postal Service). And how about when your 4th grader turns into a 10th grader and is looking at historical documents written in a "magical language". I can't imagine teaching cursive is a huge time sink.
when i was in school we learnt it by writing it on pieces of paper, the teacher chalked it up on the blackboard and we ruled lines on a piece of paper and copied it.
Cursive is only useful if you grow to be a school teacher and teach 3rd graders cursive. I am a school teacher. Other teachers think I'm wrong, but I think teaching cursive is ridiculous (unless it's an art elective.) The point of cursive was to show something was formal or adult, we now use typing to demonstrate that.

I use a projector, elmo (document camera), and my laptop and in general I type. I don't write except during math. The only people who write in my class are the kids, unless they know how to type and then they can do that.

If you want to learn cursive go for it, but I'm not going to mark people down or waste people's time on it. I would rather show the kids how to type, critically think, and understand the difference between editorial and marketing blogging.

Of course I want to teach them the traditional subjects that still matter. I never got to use cursive, right after I learned it computers came out and since my writing is so horrible I never did it again and I'm completely ok. I know Sister Mary is probably very shocked about that.
we all know how important it was to get extra points for having nice Handwriting/cursive. It actually made the stories/arguments in the paper(s) much more relevant and factual/interesting (sarcasm)
I am surprised that so many people can't even write in cursive. I would spend those $10 for this purpose easily, and won't feel sorry about that.
it's worth learning cursive, as per +Theresa Komor , and it's a lot cheaper than buying those kids computer hardware. I think the greatest tragedy would be that if no students were able to respond to an essay question on a paper test using cursive. As someone whose job it is to edit and write using word processing software (typing) I can tell you that writing in cursive allows for much more free-wheeling thoughts.
My 3rd grader can't read cursive so I encourage her to learn to write it. She calls it "grown up" writing- it's like shorthand to her.
+Bryan Hagerla i'm interested in that last part of what you said, i think more freely when i write with a typewriter than with a computer or a pen. (offtopic)
this is similar to the way that many Chinese people are forgetting how to write their own characters. the dependence upon typing is affecting every culture's language; I guess we'll keep taking the shortcuts!
+Chee Rabbits Hi there! Now that is interesting! I miss the feel of using one of those!!! The percussive action of the fingertips! I can see how that would stimulate one's thought! Brings back memories of studying poetry back in college in the day.
I can not let my thoughts go free writing by hand. I think it depends on the method you used when that part of your brain developed. I feel slowed down when writing by hand. Also all of the standardized testing are now being moved to the computer. If you can't write freely via typing you're going to be at a huge disadvantage. Even job applications for the most menial jobs require you type.

In the near future (maybe now) you're not going to have a choice on the LSAT, GRE, or SAT you will have to type or you won't be able to take them. I know for the teacher certification the teaching reading test no longer has a long hand option. You must type your answers and it's mostly essay.
Kind of the same mind set I see in the Midwest - why learn a foreign language, I'm never going to travel.
Even if they can't write it they should be able to read it. Of course the easiest way to learn to read it is to learn to write it. 
+Steve Sweitzer I don't think not teaching cursive is the same as not teaching a foreign language. I think knowing a foreign language should be a requirement for a college prep degree.

Me not being concerned with cursive is about me preparing my students for the future. I have limited resources and time. I'm going to teach my students what they need in order to be successful enough that they can afford to take cursive, knitting, and whatever old fashioned hobby they'd like to learn.
Before we get too up in arms about the death of handwriting, let me say "good riddance" to the death of cursive. I never learned cursive. I was gone during that semester of fourth grade -- I lived in England at the time, where I never learned the American version of cursive. Instead I learned some sort of "awful looking, hooked-together writing" as my fifth grade teacher pronounced when she sent me to the front of the room to demonstrate how not to write a cursive upper case Q. F**k that.

Sure, kids need to learn how to write by hand. Like +Curt Hopkins , I still feel most creative when pen and paper. But that's just me. I dunno. Maybe the future generations will write sonnets via SMS.

But let's not get so caught up in cursive. Because meh. It's just frilly penmanship.
+Curt Hopkins I totally agree that you can't write poetry on a computer. I get that, but I can write poetry on the computer. I have several chapbooks. I think they are pretty good. I wrote them all on the computer. People will adjust. Poetry is still going to get written.

You can write on a pad of paper using print, but you can also use an ipad or a tablet. The computer is going to stick, it's going to be like the phone. The horse messenger was great, so was the telegram, but the phone was even better, no one got more stupid or less creative because the phone was invented.
I write with my mind. The tool with which it is captured is completely secondary. To claim one or another is "better" or "necessary" is romantic but hardly rational. After all, is it about the message or the method?
Is it the content of the message or the art with which the message is conveyed that's important. Cursive may be something that keeps us connected to the past... History. Right or wrong, the focus now is clearly content, but we shouldnt let the art form die. Books for cursive seem extraneous if there's other sources that are easily accessible, e.g. The Internet. Having two children in private school in SF you might think that everyone has access to the internet, but that's not always the case. Especially in a school that offers tuition assistance. Perhaps this becomes part of art curriculum?
I learned cursive in grade school (I'm in my early 30s, so do the math). I haven't used it for anything other than my signature in 20+ years. The few times I've tried to write with it lately, I simply could not do it - the physical movement of my hand, the ability to fluidly connect letter to letter is very dormant, if not completely gone from me. I suppose it's a little sad, and I do buy the idea that writing in different ways utilizes different parts of the brain, but if I had the spare time and inclination, I'd rather try re-learning the foreign languages I studied a long time ago and neglected instead. I regret lacking cursive mostly because I think it would make my messages in birthday and wedding cards look nicer than they do now.

On the other hand, when I was in 3rd grade or so, someone - my mother or I, I don't really remember - had the bright idea to enroll me in an afterschool learn-to-type course at the high school. This was just before the age of personal computers for most people (we learned on electric typewriters). I'm guessing typing classes are part of the elementary or secondary school curriculum now (?) and kids these days are using computers before they're weaned, so maybe the ability just comes for them. But for me, learning the basics of typing at that age was without a doubt one of the best things that ever happened, education-wise. I'm not ridiculously fast, but never was a hunt-and-peck type(ist) either - it made the rest of my educational career and life so much easier. Practically speaking, THAT is a skill kids ought to be learning, if they're not doing so already.
When I was in 3rd grade, my mom got me a book on how to write codes and I just ate it up. Started a secret club with classmates where we wrote coded messages to one another using the code systems designated in the book. This turned really mean after a certain point -- we'd create fake codes keys for the kids we didn't like like and keep the real ones for ourselves and such. You kids are nice tho and wouldn't do that, right? Plus, how else can they enjoy museums exhibits that display old letters. Or one of my favorite blogs, Letters of Note? Totally worth it for that, ya know?
+Michael Koch I'm guessing typing classes are part of the elementary or secondary school curriculum now (?) ...." MK

No, it's not. It's insane that it's not. I teach my students how to type and use the computer, because that is what I am in to and because I think it's criminal not to.
Just the way kids take time out to learn Guitar or Violin parents who are dead bent on getting their kids to continue the cursive practice can spend their own money and energy on just that. "I can't today, I'm taking my weekly cursive lesson..." But seriously stop trying to shove this sort of dribble down kids' throats because you feel it's like an animal about to go extinct.
+Susanna Speier the many fonts we have will take care of that. I regularly show my students different fonts, so they understand the different ways As, Bs, and Cs look. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids typography. Maybe one of them will invent a new font. Learning how to cursive write isn't the only way you learn different ways letters are formed.
Ya but wouldn't the teaching techniques be a good foundation for teaching kids to design fonts? Drawing is still taught in schools. So is addition, subtraction, etc.
Why don't we also teach kids hieroglyphics, too? Learning cursive is a romantic notion that is becoming obsolete. We are on the way to becoming a paperless society, so what's the point? Let it become an art form that is mastered by some, appreciated by a few more and lost to the masses.
Mom got me a hieroglyphic rubber stamp set that I totally loved!
LOL, that is so cool! My kids and I had a list of hieroglyphics that we used to copy just for fun. We'd write silly, meaningless notes to each other. Alas, I feel cursive is going the same way. I only use it for signing checks (one or two a month) and writing thank you notes. I don't miss it, but lost art is always a sad thing.
But its not juts "art" tho. It's faster and there really are times one still has to write by hand. Signatures, edits, contract changes, cards, right?
But fewer schools are teaching it, and more schools are using computers for "writing" so it is becoming less of a function and more of an art. Or perhaps it will become like pottery - functional art?
+Susanna Speier yes, if you want it to not be legible at all (Doctors and lawyers love to write in cursive, but only they can read it) then continue to use cursive all you want. Honestly, people who never had good cursive skills simply moved on with their lives. What's wrong with thinking outside of the box? Maybe this will spur a whole new way of writing and communicating ;)
Both of my children sign their names by printing rather than using cursive, although they both know it. I don't see a problem with it.
It's standard in Croatia for kids in 1st grade to learn printing and cursive. :) Cursive is much better for taking notes. To know printing and cursive helps making mind mapping more relevant.
Doesn't any of you ever writes postcards or letters? :)
+Bryan Hagerla Interesting again. I've always wondered what it was about the typewriter that made me think more clearly. I usually concluded it was that the backspace key did not erase characters, no rereading and self-editing (not by stopping, anyhow, if a thought changes it's a new line and keep going), but perhaps that percussion is an important element too.
I think I will get an IBM Model M keyboard with all its percussion and clickety-clacking and bind my backspace key to backward-char.
Back on topic, I had a sleep and I'm wondering about this 'it's an art' argument and wondering why something that is both efficient and artful is suddenly a low priority.
I think the issue with cursive is that it's not efficient. The point of it was to write faster, but now we can type faster. It is no longer efficient. The artful aspect of it was a side effect. The point of it was to be fast and professional.

The point of cursive was economics.

People developed a stylized and quick way to write documents, because there were no copy machines and maybe to save ink. I'm just guessing. I bet you could trace a document's ownership depending on the the style of cursive it was written in. I bet at one company they all wrote one way and at another form they all wrote another. It was probably like a place of business' letterhead.

I think that is why cursive is disappearing, because we have a better more efficient way to do the job of producing documents quickly and professionally in order to receive money. In my opinion cursive was about commerce not art.

We can view it as art if you want to save it, but maybe it would be more like a craft or a hobby.
My son attends the French school here in Zurich. They learn cursive writing starting in grade 1. He just started grade 2; his writing is already neater than mine.

I don't know if it'll be useful to him by the time he's in university but there is something to be said for hand-eye coordination and simply for "art".
What makes me sad as a school teacher is when you see children in jr highs in the inner city turning in cursive written papers, because people say things like, "What if all the power goes out, then what you going to do then computer girl?" and believe things like the computers aren't real or tech is just a hobby and it's not worth it to teach technology to children in the inner city until their seniors.

The kids in the inner city do write cursive beautifully though, unfortunately since most college entry exams will no longer allow you to write long hand they will be at a huge disadvantage in comparison to children who grew up with technology in the classroom and at home.
I don't see why both writing and typing can't both be considered "essential skills" in the world today.
It's worth it. Think of the many ways that you've spent $10 and a lot of it is on nonsense. Though not an essential skill, many upper grade teachers use it. Therefore, if your child doesn't understand it, they will be lost.
The better question is how much useless shite will you spend $10 on? 
This is deep...nobody uses cursive anymore. That's like writing in calligraphy! I would tell her to start teaching them Chinese instead, or maybe how to type.... But then again maybe that old time teaching would help evolve and develop into something broader we don't think and know about?
What is this "cursive" you speak of? :)
Yes seems like a throwback to another era. Other than signing your name, when do you ever write in cursive?
+Mark Glaser - Being well-mannered with understanding/appreciation of etiquette is unnecessary? There are still many forms of correspondence that should never be emailed. Would you prefer your son send condolences via text when he's older? In my world thank yous for major occasions (weddings, religious events, big parties, large gifts), birthdays, anniversaries (your own!), condolences... they all require a written note of acknowledgement. Cursive is always going to equal a level of civility while I'm around...
cursive writing is fundamental to the montessori method, which by the way, doesn't use books. larry and sergei were both montessori kids.
i'm an educational psychologist. my profesional opinion is yes, $10 = worth it. people still write in cursive.
Thanks for the great discussion everyone! I'm aiming to make this into a post on MediaShift. A couple points to clarify. My son actually was curious about cursive before this grade, and so I taught it to him myself and he has enjoyed practicing writing in it. (It was definitely a stretch for me to remember some of the capital cursive letters!)

Second: Obviously I can afford the $10 for the cursive writing book. However, this is a public school where about 70% of the kids are on a free lunch program and are short on funds. I think if there's a way she can teach it without the book, that would make more sense (and cents).
i have started to think of books the way i think about following guidelines in cave diving or forrest exploration. when encountering new material with no general reference or contextual frames of reference, a book can be a guide to hold hands with as you start exploring. the material may be available online or elsewhere, but having a comfortable voice and logical presentation can really help neophytes orient themselves to a topic.
This is a very relevant conversation to be having right now. Our culture is changing so rapidly that we are hit in the face with it every day. It is hard to embrace change. It is hard to let things go, because it is like letting a part of us go. My meter? Is it necessary for my future? No. Even signatures are becoming digitized.

And, on the side of public education - here in Mississippi, parents have to pay for supplies from soap and tissues to workbooks. That is not new for us. Can most parents afford it? Not really. But somehow we make do. It is a shame that public education costs so much. First you pay in taxes and then with all of these extras that the schools can't afford.
It reminds me of the debate on using pocket calculators in high school. Supposedly we would not be able to calculate anymore, our math results would drop ya-da-ya-da-ya... in fact studies show math results went up because we could in fact focus on what was truly important.

Let's not let the kids waste time with stuff that's redundant. If they want to learn cursive in art class, sure.. just as they would learn how to draw, paint, use wood, clay etc. But for the core curriculum perhaps they should learn chinese, other languages, programming etc.
Cursive is not just for signatures. Writing by hand--which is made faster by using cursive instead of laboriously printing each letter--does indeed involve different parts of the brain than typing. And it is a very important tool in both creating ideas and cementing concepts for filing into long-term memory. We will be learning more and more about this as functional MRIs are used to map the brain and watch it in action. My kids are learning to type, and to write by hand. Their sense of mastery over such a grown-up skill as writing in cursive is also profound. Remember how mysterious cursive seemed when you were in second grade? That magic is still there.
Cursive is still something worth learning, but sometimes kids simply aren't able to use it effectively, no matter how much "perfect penmanship" teachers drill into them. I tend to write extremely fast. Always have. Too fast sometimes for even print to be legible to anyone but me. It's good for taking notes. Cursive does force me to write slower, but my writing still degrades as my brain is always two steps ahead of my pen. I had college professors tell me "you better type your papers from now on."

One area where cursive did help me is when I was learning Japanese. Writing in a complex syllabic/ideographic language requires fine motor skills and comprehension, more so than cursive. Though I rarely use it anymore, I believe that having cursive taught in my elementary school helped set the stage for me to grasp the written Japanese language more effectively. But I still write too fast, in both languages.
By the way, isn't 4th grade too late for learning something so important as writing? If I were a 4th grader I would just think it is one of the many things i learn at school and never actually use. For me cursive is one of the way i express myself, it is like wearing clothes. It is not about efficiency, if i wanted to be just efficient why would i bother choosing nice looking clothes? When all i need is to keep myself warm?
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