A Few Reasons to Learn Cursive Writing + An Article on the Subject in the Globe & Mail

I am so thrilled to tell you that the Globe and Mail published an article on the lost art of cursive handwriting and its place in our ever-changing and fast-paced world. I knew it was coming, mainly because Dave McGinn, the reporter, contacted us a few weeks ago to ask about our Children’s Handwriting Class and the parents that bring their kids and how it’s all going.

How to Learn Cursive Writing Why to Learn Cursive Handwriting Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca Toronto Canada

I feel like every once in a while an article pops up sharing a study on learning cursive writing or letter writing or hand writing in the classroom, and I think it’s because as the world collectively speeds along, amassing information exponentially, there is some pause in our society about what we may be losing as we race ahead.

Here are a few reasons why everyone, and children in particular, may consider learning cursive writing:

  1. The hand/mind connection when you write in “joined up writing” helps your mind also join up thoughts and ideas. Check out this article for more details. To me, this is the number one reason: it helps you think, be effective, be creative.
    Writing by hand in a journal to help you debrief after a long day, taking notes in a meeting (rather than typing rote dictation of things being said), firing up neurons to get your brain thinking. This article outlines all the ways writing by hand, and cursive writing in particular, helps you think, aiding in memory, people with learning disabilities, cognitive development, the list goes on.
  2. Confidence – having clear, legible and effortless handwriting can give the writer confidence, whether it’s sending off a thank you note to your boss, or a letter to your grandmother. For school-aged children especially, struggling to form letters (neatly) can take up precious brain space that could be used to understand or form new ideas. I think being embarrassed about something as integral to us as our hand writing is a bit like being embarrassed about your voice.
  3. Cursive handwriting can truly be beautiful. Your handwriting can be something that sets you apart, and makes people stop and pause and remember you. It can be an art form, and one that just requires a piece of paper and a pen.
  4. Speaking of being set apart, as the public school system increasingly de-emphasizes cursive writing while the private schools system still requires students to learn it, more and more graduates of our public schools may be at a disadvantage when they struggle to read notes from their boss or sign their name. Cursive handwriting may become a marker for a “higher level” of education.

Why you need cursive writing how to learn cursive writing Wonder Pens blog wonderpens.ca Toronto Canada Children's Handwriting Class

The two biggest reasons I hear against learning cursive writing I don’t quite buy, although of course, I’m a bit biased.

The first is that there’s not enough time, and this is something I find a little silly. Learning cursive handwriting can start with ten minutes a day, easily done during the commercials of your favourite TV show or during an afternoon snack. If you develop this habit, I might go so far as to say this may become a favourite meditative break from your day.

The second is that cursive writing is no longer required with technology everywhere. First, see the hand/mind connection, and second, I think the all-pervasiveness of technology is all the more reason to learn cursive writing: to have another, slower, linear way of thinking, to reduce the flickering and buzzing, and to think more creatively and effectively, without distraction.

I recently read this article on why we might consider single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and I think writing by hand is a step in this direction – to take the time and energy to focus and do one task completely and well. I think everyone by now has seen any number of the articles on the effectiveness of taking notes by hand versus taking notes with a laptop (here’s one). You may not need to write by hand, but writing by hand may actually be better than using technology all the time.

I know that not everyone is going to learn calligraphy or create elaborate masterpieces, however, cursive writing is a skill that can be learned, and once learned, is a skill that can be used everyday. It’s a bit like learning how to chop vegetables properly – it’s the basic foundation to learning to cook “real food” to eat at a real dinner table (I love Michael Pollan).

You don’t necessarily need to become a chef, but once you’ve learned how to chop that onion properly, you can do so efficiently, neatly and without thinking – and dare I say with a flourish? Learning this skill will help feed you food that isn’t microwaved and ready in 30 seconds; learning it may even impress your future spouse. It will teach you to appreciate what you eat and help you to create something authentic and meaningful to share with the ones you love.

And I would argue, at least for me, the human connection with writing by hand can be something pretty powerful, and even necessary in this age of internet isolation: to be thoughtful with a note in the mail, or surprise someone with the note that comes with a handful of flowers. To leave a post-it note on your colleague’s desk or your child’s first crayoned letters. Those notes mamas have been leaving in kids’ lunch boxes for years are just not the same via text message on a phone.

8 thoughts on “A Few Reasons to Learn Cursive Writing + An Article on the Subject in the Globe & Mail

  1. Pira Urosevic

    A friend in Western Canada has this to say yesterday online; “So I’m in an antique story right now. A young couple (20’s) are trying to read old post cards from the early 1940’s etc. He says “it’s hard to read these. How come everybody always wrote these in cursive?” I smiled and interrupted “Because that’s what we had to learn in school” to which she says ‘wow that is kind of cool’. ”

    I have been banging on for ages that it’s shortsighted for boards of education to declare cursive dead. We are cutting the cord between generations, effectively making hand writing like deciphering hieroglyphics. It will become a specialized skill only academics can read. Imagine picking up that bundle of letters a grandparent wrote that had been lovingly preserved for decades ….and just seeing gibberish, rather than touching the paper and reading the thoughts of someone long ago placed there. The connection is broken. :/

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      What a great point – reading your grandmother’s letters, but also being able to continue to value and understand our history. Especially as human communication through language is so fundamental to how we connect to each other, losing the ability to understand writing is something that cannot be replaced. It does seem ridiculous, but also not that far away, that only academics will be able to read cursive writing, as it is a relatively simple skill to learn with a bit of effort.

      Reply
      1. Pira Urosevic

        When the schools first floated the idea that cursive would be dropped, it was an ‘oh-oh’ moment for me. I then learned that they’d no longer been instructing teachers at college how to teach it. WHAT? My youngest had a few weeks of cursive in grade three and that was it. Around grade 4 or 5 we were re-applying for passports I discovered my son couldn’t sign his name. Double WHAT!?

        It was at that point that I spent the summer making him work through a number of cursive practice books.

        By Grade 8 friends, who are teachers, were up in arms that their children had no signitures and the entire process of passport applications for them was a special kind of hell because of this one simple thing that seems to have been overlooked by the ENTIRE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION! You can NOT PRINT your name on your passport application. You must sign it.

        Uh huh. Cursive is unimportant and not used anymore. Tell me more….

        When watching the BBC show; At Home with the Georgians, Amanda Vickery spent a lot of time culling through diaries and letters to investigate on a personal level what exactly went on in the lives of people of the era. Seeing her sift through parchment and read the words of people from over 200 years ago just made me sad…knowing the ability to do this is being willfully lost.

      2. Liz Post author

        It’s amazing how things can deteriorate so quickly, and without us even noticing! And I would add that actually being able to sign their name is something that often children are very, very proud of. Some children practise it over and over to perfect it, but it is something that children are often so proud to do when they can do it “properly” and in cursive writing. Something that they can truly have confidence in and feel good about! Although it is effort and work, I’m sure your son will appreciate that it’s a skill he has now 🙂

  2. JJ ColourArt

    Oh Liz, I nearly lost my cursive after not using it for 15 years or so. Fortunately, rediscovering my old Parker 51 fountain pen set me on the right path, but I could hardly remember how to form some letters when I started up this January. I’m in my late fiftes so did an awful lot of cursive writing in my lifetime and over a mere 15 years it nearly went. That was a shock. I remember thinking “If this has gone from my brain, what else is going?”

    I used to work in a library and a group of kids once asked me what time it was, when I pointed at the clock they couldn’t read it. Apparently they are no longer teaching hands on a clock and positions as well as cursive writing. It’s not dumbing down it’s complete ignorance, a blank in the mind.

    I have talked to a teacher who immediately made the point about not being able to read archival material if you don’t know cursive writing. Some people might not see that as terrible but what if you’re a researcher or biographer? Want a Masters or PhD in any field and need to do some research? Good luck on that if you can’t read cursive.

    It’s very, very important not to shut out the ability for people to roam with their minds on their own. Literacy, including handwriting, is crucial to having independent thinkers and rational thought. I remember being equally shocked when people couldn’t do calculations without a calculator. It’s like being suspended in glue, you can’t move independently.

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      You bring up so many great points here! How great that your pen was able to re-inspire you, and I’ll bet that your “re-learning” of cursive writing woke up some parts of your brain that were quiet over the years you did not write in cursive. Of course I completely agree with you – the more and the more varied ways our brains can wire and think and communicate and take in information, the stronger they will be – being able to interpret clocks and time and numbers is just another great example of that. Being able to fully understand our history is so important to us as human beings.

      Reply
  3. Stuart DesBrisay

    Excellent post. Yes, we need cursive!!! The hand/eye/brain connection is so important in learning and retaining information. And cursive can be so beautiful and personal. Fountain pens were made for cursive, they become a powerful tool for personal expression when used for it. And the divide between public and private schools is a concern – cursive writing can benefit everyone. I don’t know why that idea is being cast out, it’s not elitist to insist on legible handwriting.

    Here in Vancouver, the several local pen shops we are lucky to have are all doing steady business – plenty of newbies among the veteran regular customers. The interest in pens and writing is there, and it’s foolish for the public education system to ignore this. I will continue to do my part to promote cursive and the many joys of good pens! Keep up the great blog, we appreciate it.

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Thanks for reading! I couldn’t agree more with you about how important can be in helping you think and learn. Fountain pens of course were made for cursive and to minimize as much friction and effort in the physicality of writing as possible. And – I am so glad to hear how well your local pen shops are doing! Supporting local and independent business is becoming increasingly important these days, but also, how wonderful that pen shops are staying steady in this age of technology. You just can’t beat a notebook and pen 😉

      Reply

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