Linda Sweet, M.S. Ed, is a founder of Glenburnie School in Oakville,
Ontario, which specializes in giving students the necessary tools and
skills for the challenges of the 21st-century workplace.
Should pets be banned
from airline cabins?
Neuroscience and cognitive science
research point to a strong correlation between
cursive handwriting instruction and higher
scores in reading, improved eye-hand coordi-
nation and dexterity. They report that the
physical activity involved in cursive writing
strengthens the brain’s pathways far more than
typing or even printing. Research also indicates
that the physical rhythm of cursive writing
calms the emotional brain. Overall, penman-
ship practice strengthens focus, concentration
and fine motor skills.
Efficiency. Cursive handwriting is 30 per
cent faster than block printing due to fewer pen
lifts from the page. Another point: With the
continuing dependence on official signatures,
cursive is harder to forge.
Sign of a well-educated person. In many
parts of the world, the ability to read and write
fluently in cursive is valued as the sign of an
Social graces. Our society continues to
value handwritten notes over less personal
typed or emailed messages.
Students take great pride in their abilities
to both read and write in cursive when it is
accompanied by positive praise and encouragement, along with meaningful opportunities to
use this valuable, traditional communication
tool both in and outside the classroom. C
IN SCHOOLS TODAY,
with increasing curriculum pressures, the emphasis on cursive writing
and formal handwriting
instruction has markedly decreased, and, in
some instances, cursive has not been taught at
all. The current debate is whether students will
be at a disadvantage without proficiency in this
traditional form of written communication or
if cursive writing is no longer valued as a 21st-
Percentage reflects votes
received by May 20, 2013. Results
may reflect Debate being
picked up by blogs.
High school teachers have been resorting
to the time-consuming task of printing words
and phrases in block letters, as many students
cannot read cursive handwriting. There are
strong arguments for a renewed emphasis on
cursive instruction, despite increased pressures
to integrate technology into the classroom.
Health and safety. Doctors, pharmacists
and hospitals have a history of misread prescriptions and illegible record keeping, resulting in avoidable, costly and potentially
from an expert in the field:
Joel Westheimer, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Ottawa and
education columnist for CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning show. Follow him
on Twitter ( http://twitter.com/joelwestheimer) or at http://tinyurl.com/
The mobile phone shorthand above is
—Hi. Will I C U L8R?
exactly how one should communicate when
time is tight and keyboards are small (think
Morse code or smoke signals). That doesn’t
mean kids do not need to learn how to write in
full sentences. But it does mean that we should
have a variety of writing approaches at our dis-
posal and that some are more salient today
than others. Be honest: When was the last time
you received a handwritten letter?
—Prhps on Sat ’cos have
cursive wrtng test tmrw.
—Cursive? ha ha. Gr8. Meet 4 lunch then?
SHOULD YOU WORRY that your child’s
school is no longer teaching cursive writing
and that soon “proper” writing won’t be taught
at all? No. School curriculum is always contested because there is so much to teach and
learn. The question isn’t whether cursive writing should be taught, but how much emphasis
should be placed on it, and at the expense of
what other skills? Proper typing? Critical
thinking? Determining the reliability of information found on the Web?
We all have an immediate gut reaction or
nostalgia when we hear that cursive may be on
the wane. And that is understandable. But we
no longer teach chiselling on stone tablets or
how to use a quill pen. The important thing is
looking at the larger picture of how schools
teach communication—and that is far more
complicated than simply handwriting.
Experts are quick to point to research
showing a number of developmental benefits
of learning writing, including fine motor skills,
attention to detail and focus. But handwriting
is not the only way those skills can be developed. By focusing on cursive writing, people
overlook other areas in the curriculum that
also help develop skills and are suffering cutbacks, such as art, drama and sports. Many of
these are put on the back burner or taken off
the stove altogether to make way for standardized test preparation in math and reading only.
That kind of misguided narrowing of the
curriculum is really what parents should be
upset about, and it’s happening across Canada.
What gets tested gets taught, and these narrow
measures of school success have derailed
decades of best practices in education. C
Opinions expressed are those of
the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.