Apr 15, 2007

cursive going the way of the quill

In what's becoming an annual quillblogging tradition, I direct the reader to another lament for the lost art of scrivenizing.
Cursive penmanship is becoming a casualty of the digital age. Last year, of the nearly 1.5 million high-school students who took the SAT, only 15 percent used cursive on the essay portion, according to the College Board.

Under pressure to meet testing standards, teachers are devoting less time to penmanship practice. A 2003 survey of primary teachers by Vanderbilt University found that the average classroom gets fewer than 10 minutes a day of penmanship instruction.

In Washington, state standards allow printing or cursive, as long as it is legible. Local districts start teaching cursive in the primary grades. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction also encourages districts to offer initial keyboarding instruction in the kindergarten through eighth grade.

Most students master basic keyboard skills, which students and educators nationwide say are increasingly taking precedence over pen and paper.

Three years ago, Grace Bratzel, a 15-year-old freshman at Christ's Household of Faith school in St. Paul, won a national cursive penmanship competition with 130,000 entrants. But today, she said, she mostly prints or uses a computer.

"Cursive is prettier and more artistic, but manuscript is more natural and instinctive," she said. "When it's really important, I write on the computer so the teachers don't judge the work on how it's presented."
Research shows that the students who wrote in cursive on the SAT scored slightly higher. No word on if it was because they were faster writers and better thinkers, or whether scorers were too lazy to decipher the scrawl, and decided it was probably by a smartypants anyway and thus worth a better score.


Christina said...

I always write in cursive. I remember learning how in third grade and it stuck. From a practical standpoint it's faster. For a less practical reason, I think it makes my handwriting look more sophisticated.

KateGladstone said...

The woes and failures of handwriting instruction come in *very* large part from teachers damnation-bent on equating "good handwriting" with "doing it in cursive" ... when actually, according to a 1998 study in the JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH (citation below) the fastest and most legible handwriters break about half the rules of cursive.
It turns out that the fastest handwriters (and especially the fastest LEGIBLE handwriters) /a/ join only some letters, not all of them — using only the easiest joins, skipping the rest — and /b/ use some cursive and
some printed letter-shapes (where printed and cursive letters seriously "disagree" in shape, highest-speed highest-legibility handwriters tend to go for the printed shape).

Graham, S., Berninger, V., & Weintraub, N. (1998). The relationship between handwriting style and speed and quality. Journal of Educational Research, volume 91, issue number 5, (May/June 1998), pages 290-297.

By the way, I've checked with the Educational Testing Service (producers of the SAT) about the much ballyhooed difference in SAT essay scores between cursive and non-cursive essays/ According to the Educational Testing Service, that difference amounts to a statistically insignificant fraction of a point.

Kate Gladstone
Director, World Handwriting Contest
CEO, Handwriting Repair
http://learn.to/handwrite, http://www.global2000.net/handwritingrepair
handwritingrepair@gmail.com - telephone 518/482-6763
325 South Manning Boulevard
Albany, New York 12208-1731 USA

Jim Anderson said...


Thanks for the info. I know it squares with my experience: when I need to write quickly, I write a cursivesque scrawl that gets the job done, but ain't pretty. However, when I write "normally" I have (very neat) printing.