Lack of cursive writing in the school system affects youth

Cursive writing is less prominent nowadays with the growing demand of more technology.
Cursive writing is less prominent nowadays with the growing demand of more technology.

Cursive writing was once prominent in the school system. Nowadays, with the growing demand of technology, the use of cursive writing in schools is becoming non-existent. So, is cursive writing dead? Students won’t have the advantage of learning how to write in cursive, which means that they won’t know how to sign their name, sign cheques, write thank you notes, write birthday cards or read historical documents. Cursive writing in the school system is being taken over by a more technology-based, interactive classroom.

There are kids with i-Phones, tablets, laptops and e-books. The growing demand to have electronics in the classroom is cutting out time to learn about subjects that require pen and paper, like cursive writing. Cursive writing is still needed to enhance students learning. In The Wall Street Journal, researchers have found that learning how to write cursive helps students with learning the letters of the alphabet and different shapes. It also may help with student expression.

Leslie Linstrum, writing specialist at the Student Academic Learning Centre (SALS) for the college and university, said that there is not as much opportunity for cursive writing because most professors want students to submit their assignments electronically.

“I think that most students between their phones and tablets and laptops and computers and so on. There’s not as much opportunity to use cursive writing,” Linstrum says.

Cursive writing is something that requires patience and there has to be a connection to the material, Linstrum says. When someone is typing on a computer, there is more of a detachment as your fingers move, while when you are writing something out, you are more active. There is also a greater connection with what you are writing if you are writing in cursive, or even in print. When writing something out, you have to think about what you are writing. When typing something out, there isn’t that pause between words, which can cause a disconnection to the material.

A 2014 Princeton University study says that students are more likely to learn “when they use old-fashioned handwriting rather than the computer to take notes in class.” This may be because writing requires a different connection to the material, as opposed to typing.

At SALS, Linstrum says that students may become disconnected from the material that they are producing if they are just passively typing away at the computer.

“It requires a different connection to the material. Students get distracted by looking at other things on their tablets or phones,” Linstrum says. “I think it decreases that creativity.”

If cursive writing is not being reinforced and students are not being given the tools to develop the skills needed for cursive writing, then the students would lose the lack of creativity that cursive writing has to offer.

Cursive writing does not always mean handwritten letters or thank you cards or birthday cards. It also does not always mean writing out notes for class or writing an essay. Cursive writing could be used when students do research for school. Linstrum says that people may lose track of their information more easily if there are many open tabs on their computer or tablet open.

Before technology started to evolve and make its way into schools, cursive writing was introduced to students at a young age. Cursive writing is first mentioned to students in Ontario in Grade 3. However, like many U.S. states, cursive writing is being eliminated from the curriculum. While there is still mention of cursive in Ontario, it is not an expectation anymore. Instead it is just known as one-way that students can show their work to teachers.

A survey conducted in 2013 by Pew Research showcased how many Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers use technology in the classroom. Almost 2,500 teachers were surveyed on cell-phones, laptops, tablets and other devices in the classroom. In the survey, 73 per cent of teachers said that they and/or their students use their phones in the classroom or to complete other assignments. When using e-readers, 45 per cent said that they or their students use them and 43 per cent said that they use tablets in the classroom and to complete assignments.

With the growing usage of tablets, cellphones and laptops in the school system, cursive writing has become less prominent. There are also now SMART boards in the classroom, which are similar to a blackboard. About one-third of classrooms in Canada now carry SMART boards in their classroom. With classrooms starting to integrate more technology into the system, the option to print, write cursive or type your notes is becoming less of an option. This means that students entering college or university, who were taught to print or write cursive, will not have that option. This is unless they decided to use cursive on their own.

At SALS, Linstrum says that there are many students who come in to get help with their work who prefer to print or write their notes in cursive. This is because they can remember the notes more easily.

“When I see students in here and I hand them out some documents, for doing an essay outline, or taking what are called research notes, or developing their own editing checklist. Many students tell me that they are more a paper and pen person,” Linstrum says.

Cursive writing may still be in the school system now, even vaguely, but the question is how long will that last? If classrooms are becoming more technologically-based, it may not be long until cursive writing is a vague memory that is only used when your grandmother writes you a Christmas card.

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Reba Pennell is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. When it comes to reporting, she enjoys covering a wide variety of events and stories. She likes to spend her spare time reading, working on her novel and hanging out with friends and family. Reba hopes to work in a newspaper setting following graduation.