School Year

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Should schools reinforce cursive writing skills?

Cursive writing lessons were once mandatory in schools. Many adults can remember cursive writing lessons on lined paper and time spent practicing this aesthetically appealing style of writing.

But thanks to technology and a growing reliance on computers to complete school assignments, handwriting skills are no longer stressed as much as they once were. In fact, some children never receive cursive writing instruction.

The absence of cursive writing lessons has led to a heated debate. Some people feel cursive writing is archaic and a waste of time, while others believe it is a relevant skill. Here is a look at both sides of the debate.

The pros of cursive writing

Various experts and educators have weighed in on the lasting benefits of cursive handwriting. Here are just a few of the benefits proponents of cursive writing point to.

• Cursive writing stimulates the brain. "Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity," Dr. William Klemm said in an article in Psychology Today. The skills developed from learning cursive writing cannot be replaced by using a keyboard. In addition, MRIs have revealed an interesting relationship between handwriting and the brain. The brains of people with good handwriting are more active in areas associated with cognition, language and executive function than the brains of those with poor handwriting.

• Cursive writing may promote focus. Writing things down by hand forces a person to slow down and formulate his or her thought. Handwritten notes may hold the advantage over computer-typed notes in terms of recollection of facts.

• Cursive writing may help students with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that can hinder reading, writing, spelling and sometimes even speaking. According to the International Dyslexia Association, when writing cursive, the words jotted down become a unit, rather than a series of separate strokes, and that may contribute to better spelling. And since all lowercase cursive letters begin on the line, fewer of them are likely to be reversed.

The cons of cursive writing

There are various reasons why people think lessons in cursive writing are unnecessary.

• Cursive writing is only used in signatures. Cursive writing is seldom used except for signatures. Even then, e-signing and online transactions have removed the need to write in cursive.

• Typing on a keyboard should take precedence. Many parents and educators believe that cursive writing lessons do little to prepare young students for an increasingly digital world. Such opponents of cursive writing suggest keyboarding lessons should take precedence over teaching handwriting skills. Teachers have admitted that cursive writing lessons take a lot of time, and many simply cannot devote classroom time to them.

• Digital texts make it obsolete. Some argue that those who do not know how to read in cursive can never understand historical texts or early manuscripts. However, so much has been transcribed into digital texts that this argument is seen by many as outdated.

Cursive writing may be going the way of the dinosaur. But the debate about the value of cursive writing figures to continue.