Should Schools Teach Handwriting?

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“Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century,” said Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School in Cohoes, NY, who is debating whether to cut handwriting lessons.   “Is cursive really a 21st century skill?”   Most students now write on keyboards or text.

Does learning cursive have any advantages besides the ability to read historical documents like the Constitution; or even make sense of the writing in your grandmother’s diary?

Richard S. Christen, a professor of education at the University of Portland said cursive can easily be replaced with printed handwriting or computer fonts, but he worried that students will lose an artistic skill.

I have more of an immediate question:   how much of the ability to read will be lost when students can no longer read or write longhand?

What do you think?

14 thoughts on “Should Schools Teach Handwriting?

  1. This is tricky. Handwriting is important for many of the reasons stated but it would be nice to internationalize it. I’ve been living in France for many years (I’m American) and I still have a hard time reading people’s handwriting here. Cursive is taught in schools and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my kids print for any of their homework. Books for beginning readers are all in cursive. Sometimes I can’t help my kids with their homework because I can’t read what the teacher wrote or even what they wrote in their agendas. They’ve also had problems with the teachers because they’ve written something that I’ve helped them with and the teachers feel it’s not “correct” writing. So I’ve told my kids to print when we go to America or they’ll have problems. It’s crazy that we use the same alphabet but the writing is so different!

  2. I was wondering what other counties are doing about handwriting also. A couple of earlier posters mentioned the UK. It will be interesting to see how countries like China, Japan and number ranked in education Norway handles it.

  3. Well gosh, if we’re going to be cutting out handwriting because of computers, why do we still learn arithmetic when we have calculators? Why do we need to learn to tie our shoes when we can just wear Crocs and sandals? Why do we need to learn to spell with spell-check? Or learn foreign languages because we have Google translate? If we depend solely on our technology then we’re going to have to do less and less things in the future….so what I ask is with technology making things so easy for us, why do we need SCHOOL at all? I picture all of us sitting fat and happy in hovering chairs aboard a virtual mothership like in the movie ‘Wall-E’, not able to do anything without our technology!

    In all seriousness though, this is a real debate in the school system today. But the answer isn’t to cut out the fundamental elements like writing and arithmetic. The answer isn’t to ‘teach less’, it’s to teach more, and work harder. In school systems where students are beating out American kids, I am more than willing to bet they haven’t cut out handwriting, in fact, they probably do a whole lot more of it than we do (China and Japan come to mind). One this is for sure though, if the school system won’t teach my kids how to write, I sure as heck will.

  4. I agree with all above. Handwriting should still be taught. Like posters have said it could come in handy in a prolonged power outage. I think their will be some unintened consequences to this.

    Maybe some art/craft teachers should teach it. That way al least some students will still get it. Also parents can teach it themselves. Maybe make a game out of it. This has been discussed on blog and message boards.

  5. They should continue to teach hand writing in school. It is important not only for situations where one is found without technology, but it is an art form that teaches youth to refine the control over their hands not only for writing but for drawing as well.

  6. I think you’re probably asking a biased audience, but I have to agree with everyone above and say that handwriting should be taught in schools–if anything, so that people will like writing and take handwriting seriously. The other day at work I had to go through some forms that people had sent in to subscribe to our newspaper, and I got to look at about 100 different handwriting samples–and SO many of them were just capital letters, or computer-like printing, lacking personality. Handwriting should be taught so that kids learn their own styles and don’t end up just mimicking computers.

  7. That is an excellent question. I was among those who were taught to write cursive in school. It’s a sad fact that children today do not receive the same instruction. As a student, I valued (hand)writing because it helped me remember (almost) everything I wrote down. Studying became easier. I still write, and years from now, I still would.

    • Clement, excellent point about remembering what is written. So true! The alternative is couch potatoes who have little structure in what they remember. I once had an investor observe I don’t write what happened, I wrote what should have happened.

      Thank you,

  8. 30 years a go, calligraphy or handwriting lessons was an obligation for turkish students while the french education system influences existing over all of the turkish education system. Turkish Education system has left the handwriting or calligraphy classes for last 20 year with the penetration of anglosaxon education principles in to turkish education system.
    But this year turkish education ministry has taken a decision again for calligraphy/ handwriting classes as an obligation for students.

  9. In the UK handwriting is practiced at school. In primary school at least kids write every day. My son used to have handwriting exercise books. There is of course the possibility that in the future handwriting will only exercised by scribes (back to the past!).

  10. I’d certainly like a focus on legibility and clarity – I struggle to read my son’s handwriting at times (mostly when he’s rushed an assignment). He’s not particularly interested in handwriting for its own sake. Although he does like to draw and write for his own amusement, he favours fineliners that don’t really encourage a flowing cursive.

    My daughter loves to write cursive, and has nice handwriting – she likes fountain pens – most recently a Schneider Base, which she adores, and uses with Diamine’s brighter, “fun” colours. She has a Pelikan P480 that she uses for school with more staid blues and blacks.

  11. I tend to agree that abandoning handwriting skills leaves children dependant upon technology and that this may not always be available. What happens when it’s not available? Additionally, the neural pathways formed in children are different pathways used for typing and writing, as typing uses one muscular action to form a whole letter and writing uses one, two or more actions to form the same letter. Therefore, we may be inadvertently robbing children of neuromuscular development.
    We abandoned the cursive handwriting lessons in the UK over 40 years ago, which explains why my own handwriting is terrible, but my six year old niece still has to practice her writing technique every day at school. Her neatness and readability has improved vastly in the last six months because of this, I believe.
    While children should learn to be au fait with technology, paper is going nowhere for the forseeable future and they will still need to master handwriting otherwise we risk leaving a gap in their education.
    I didn’t mean for this comment to be so long, but that’s maybe what you get for typing it out on an iPhone. Perhaps it would’ve been shorter if I’d had to write it by hand.

  12. It’s just one more excuse for teaching even less. I look at what my grandparents learned from ONE teacher in 8th grade in a country school house and it’s now considered college level work. American children already lag far behind the rest of the world in education. Now we’re going to make them dependent on technology to communicate?

    I’ve already got teenagers in my community with malformed hands from improperly clutching pencils and stick pens for 12 years with no correction. Now we’re going to leave them unable to communicate if there’s a prolonged power outage such as a hurricane or earthquake. BAD idea!

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