Cursive, unschooling, change, musings

From a discussion on AlwaysLearning

Someone asked this question:

What is your take on the necessity of cursive writing. Do kids really need to learn it?
My granny was sure, in the the 60's, that my life would be incomplete because I was learning to write with pencil and ballpoint instead of a fountain pen.

I did okay. And because of personal interest, I did a lot of writing with fountain pens, cartridge pens and dip pens.

My husband's cursive writing is unuseable for everyday purposes. I know one young man in his 20's who went to school "regularly" and can't read cursive writing very well at all. He can't be the only one.

I think it's fading.


It does seem that "keyboarding" (once known as typing) is the important skill to have. Even if I thought cursive was a necessity for life, though, trying to make people do it wouldn't be a good way to get there.

Kirby's handwriting improved a lot after he went to work at a pizza place and took phone orders that other people needed to be able to read. It was his first real use of quick handwriting. Some people never find a real-world need for it.


My brother is 35 years old. He does not write cursive. He prints everything. In fact, he even prints his signature. He went through grade school, high school (strict Catholic college prep school), and college without writing cursive. He is now working in the corporate world as a project manager. It did not inhibit him in the least.


Regarding cursive, someone said to me:
I think it's important that children understand that there are standards that need to be met. If they never experience stress, they won't be able to handle stress later. In the real world, people are tested & stressed out daily. If you can't handle it, you get fired.
I was speechless...


Diana Jenner wrote: When talking to regional homeschoolers recently, one went on and on about "forcing" her child to write, as it was soooo important to have good handwriting... I shared with her that Stephen King writes longhand and has a hard time finding people to decipher it - but it hasn't stopped him from making millions thru his passion. I added, I hope you don't "handwriting" his novel out of him. Marji wrote: Neither has poor handwriting hurt physicians' ability to succeed! BTW, didja hear the one about the doctors' strike at the local hospital? They had to call in pharmacists to read the picket signs! (rim shot here)

I picked this up somewhere on the internet. The T and F are simpler than those I was taught in the 60's. —Sandra

Wikipedia's history of cursive writing

Pam Sorooshian, who teaches at a college, brought a note to the Always Learning list in 2009:

Pam: That reminded me ... only 15 percent of students who took the recent SAT college entrance exams wrote their essays in cursive. The rest printed.

Sandra: Are they marking down for it? REALLY interesting.

Pam: No marking down. I know someone who was a grader. She said the graders are thrilled–the printing is easier to read, in general.

"But cursive is faster," you might think or say. That's what John Holt thought. He thought it because that was the justification given to him as a child when people taught cursive (though he was old enough to have used fountain pens not just for fun).

In his book Learning All the Time, John Holt tells of having taught fifth grade and having explained to them what he "knew" about cursive writing. But three of those ten- and eleven-year-old children could print faster than the teacher could write in cursive. They raced. They timed it more than once. He discovered he was the fourth fastest writer in the room.

Holt wrote, "Later I learned that school cursive, called in my day Palmer penmanship, had evolved from an elaborate decorative script invented for engraving in copper, a very slow and painstaking form of writing that had nothing to do with speed. Someone, somewhere, decided that it would be nice if children learned to write like copperplate engraving, and the rest, as they say, is history."

Later he raced the clock against himself and discovered that his own printing, even after decades of cursive writing, was faster than his own cursive, so he took to printing, except for his signature. I have friends in their twenties who went to school and who can't read most of the cursive writing they see around them. Life is changing. Don't worry if your children don't want to learn cursive, and don't be surprised if at some point in their teens they do want to learn it.

Penmanship/handwriting is only a very small part of what writing is. Storytelling, playwriting, poetry, letters, exposition, collections of trivia or facts, rules writing... Often when unschoolers talk about "writing" they haven't really thought very deeply or broadly about what they mean.

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