Loop, curve, peak, and repeat, cursive writing is a practice in precise concentration. A practice I well remember hating from my elementary-school days. However, twenty years later looking at my handwriting, I begrudgingly admit that those stylistic twists of ink on the page were born in that classroom. Are those expressive loops worth the precious scholastic time on them, more worthy even than hunting for fossil bones? Glancing around my little office space at the stacks of paper covered in my handwriting, I would say yes. Learning to write legibly and efficiently has proved for me to be a critical skill to possess and the benefits are more than paper deep.
Although there is nothing like a good fossil hunt to nourish the imagination, exploring beneath the Earth’s top soil has a practical kinetic purpose in any elementary school curriculum. Children digging for dinosaur bones are engaging the subject matters of palaeontology and general Earth Sciences. Rooting through dirt with the sun on the skin and fresh air to breath are all the elements of a good time; however, practicing cursive writing has an equally as beneficial kinetic effect for the students. The actual process of learning to and writing in the cursive style refines a student’s finer motor skills. As discussed on the website Learning Disabilities Support Helping Children with Learning Problems, the process of learning cursive writing develops fine eye-to-hand coordination through “rapid automatic focus adjustment”. The student must focus on the printed word, then the paper, and finally his/her pen in relation to both, creating a new script.
In addition to the kinetic use, learning cursive writing carries very practical relevance. The need for students to be able to communicate in written form crosses all other primary subjects. Sure most upper-level elementary students have access to computers in the classroom and are learning to type by grade five. However, from timed essay tests in the classroom to personal correspondence, complete dependence on technology seems counterintuitive to the liberation of education. Students become limited by the medium of communication they know to use while in the same classroom are ever broadening the depth of their writing.
Along the same vane of education necessity, learning to write in cursive form allows for faster transcription; thus in the classroom, more efficient note taking. Students who have had the benefit of learning to write words in single stokes, rather than a one letter at a time, will simply be better note takers, and one would hope better students as a result.
With the proper training, typing is most likely is a faster method of recording one’s thoughts or notes, draft an essay, and general communication than writing by hand. However, on national average there are four students per computer terminal in elementary and middle schools, which means a student’s ability to type up his/her report is limited. Furthermore, assuming that learning cursive writing is unnecessary due to the emergence of convenient technology is counterproductive because than one assumes a vast majority of elementary school students have access to such word-processing programs.
In an education system raked with budget cuts and forced to eliminate art and artistic programs, practicing cursive writing on some level is an expression of artist personalization when writing.
Ultimately the debate between the creative exploration of digging for fossils and practicing cursive writing in the classroom illustrates the sad, stark reality of the United States education system’s lack of resources to offer both educational activities. Debbie DeSpirt, an elementary school teacher and contributing writer to Suite 101 website refers to cursive as a beautiful art form with defined lines of grace and personality. As budget cuts restrict more and more liberal-arts-based programs in favour of math and science focuses, I argue that every scrap of art needs to be preserved in the classroom.