Monday, May 26, 2014

Cursive Handwriting: The Debate Continues

The state of Tennessee recently passed HOUSE BILL 1697, by Butt requiring all public schools in the state to include cursive handwriting instruction before the end of 3rd grade.

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10 - relative to curriculum.

Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, is amended by adding the following language as a new section: 49-6-10.

The course of instruction in all public schools shall include cursive writing so that
students will be able to create readable documents through legible cursive handwriting
by the end of the third grade.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring

-Please click on comments and share your thoughts and opinions on this topic!


  1. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    Research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting belong to those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive still matters — and is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Just reading cursive can be taught in just 30-60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds once they read print. (There's even an iPad app teaching kids and others to read cursive, whether or not they ever write it. The app — “Read Cursive” — is a free download. Those who are rightly concerned with the vanishing skill of cursive reading may wish to visit for more information.)

    Why not teach kids to READ cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of writing that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?
    Teaching material for such a practical route abounds. Examples, in some cases with student work also shown:,,,,,

  2. Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference run by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
    To take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, not restricted to teachers — visit for the One-Question Handwriting Survey, created by this author. As with the Zaner-Bloser teacher survey, results so far show very few purely cursive handwriters: and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.
    When even most handwriting teachers do not use cursive, why glorify it?

    Believe it or not, some teachers who themselves write an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me they still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or they still teach their students that all adults write in cursive. (Given the facts on handwriting, this is like teaching kids that our president is Richard Nixon.)
    What, I wonder, are the effects of teaching, or trying to teach, wat students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?

    Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes claim that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote such handwriting. They repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, adds brain cells, instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or grants other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of us. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.
    By now, you may wonder: “What of signatures? Do we have legally valid signatures if we stop writing them in cursive?” Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
    Questioned document examiners (the specialists in identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger's life easy.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works