Cursive – cursed again?

On the same day last week, two very different points of view on cursive writing appeared in my Twitter timeline. The first, yet another news article suggesting the demise of hand written cursive in schools, and in contrast, a Kickstarter project purporting to have developed a new and more efficient means of teaching the very cursive supposedly on the way out.

You can probably guess on which side of the fence my allegiance was on, however after calming down and scrapping my original plans for a “that’s ridiculous” post here, I came to realise the views were not necessarily diametrically opposed.

The downstroke

The first, and of course, most striking piece to me, was an Australian ABC News story titled Finland scraps cursive writing lessons, sparking discussion over future of handwriting in classrooms. The discussion in question, was of the Australian curriculum, and the future of hand writing which may, or ultimately may not, be taught in Australian classrooms.

For someone who loves pens, and fountain pens in particular, I have mixed feelings about an article such as this. Australia’s board of education was noted to have said:

…learning to type was “more relevant to everyday life”, a skill that Australian experts agreed was a better use of school time.

Before you begin quoting the numerous studies showing the benefits of handwritten note taking in learning, many of the education experts quoted made the distinction between teaching children to write, and teaching children the style of cursive handwriting.

Senior lecturer in English and Literacy Education at the University of Queensland, Dr Eileen Honan agreed that while the Australian curriculum put emphasis on both handwriting and keyboard skills, cursive writing was irrelevant.

Being able to write in beautiful script has got nothing to do with the ability to read and write productively, creatively and intelligently

Thankfully, the conclusion made was for further discussion on the matter in relation to the Australian curriculum, as here in Australia, we were unlikely to “follow Finland’s lead” — well not yet anyway.

The upstroke

The next, and infinitely more positive piece in my timeline was first shared by two pen and stationery bloggers I follow (Doug at Modern Stationer, and Ray at Fountain Pen Quest) — the CursiveLogic Kickstarter project.

Of course after looking at the Kickstarter project page myself, I also instantly shared the link, and began planning my rant post, thinking ”I’ll show you — just try to get rid of cursive”.

As I sat and thought a little more, I realised something like the CursiveLogic programme goes a long way towards solving one of the main issues many of the experts raised as a problem in continuing to teach cursive writing — that of the time spent with students practising the correct formation of letters. Senior lecturer in Language Literacy at the University of Canberra, Dr Misty Adonious:

I just don’t think it’s worthwhile spending school time teaching kids … cursive writing.

In the CursiveLogic programme, we have the makings of a solution. A way of learning cursive writing more efficiently, and therefore much faster than standard methods of instruction, through two key features — letters grouped by shape:

By teaching all of the similar letters together, CursiveLogic captures the natural synergy of the alphabet itself, allowing each letter in the series to reinforce the proper formation of all the others.

and letter strings:

CursiveLogic’s letter strings teach students to connect letters from the first lesson, allowing students to internalize the flow of cursive handwriting even before they have learned all 26 letters.

Both the project page and the CursiveLogic website have further information and the scientific basis behind the programme. I’d also encourage you to watch the inspirational video of Josh, a 23-year-old student with learning disabilities who wanted to learn cursive to be able to sign his name.

My thoughts

If the argument against maintaining cursive in the school curriculum is as much a time based one as it is a relevance one — then let’s teach it faster.

To me, a system or programme such as the one proposed by CursiveLogic which aims to teach cursive in a more efficient way, seems like the perfect starting point for keeping alive such an important aspect of educational development in the classroom.

The assumption here is that the methods and outcomes of the CursiveLogic system are as reported on the project page and website, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. Of course I acknowledge I have not had any experience with the methods of CursiveLogic, nor seen it used first hand.

One other aspect I find interesting in all of this, is that although most agree cursive writing is outdated, children will still be taught to write. If this is the case, and the writing is not cursive — then what will it be? Surely it must be based on some form of script to maintain a standardised curriculum does it not? To date I have found the mention of any alternative to cursive completely absent from the discussion.

I see it like any skill — learn the foundations and deviate with your own style from there. My own handwriting has drifted far from its humble beginnings in primary school, however when attempting to produce some better quality handwriting (say for an invitation or card), the slope, letter formation and overall style certainly reverts closer to the cursive I learnt as a youngster.

I’m hoping that if the handwriting component of the curriculum does change, we do not simply see a generation of children who can perfectly reproduce by hand the stock standard upper case letters we see on a keyboard.


While this post is clearly too late for Finland – Australia, not so. Although the CursiveLogic project is based in the US, and may not necessarily directly influence any discussion locally, the project creators aims of raising public awareness about a more time efficient means of developing the skill of cursive writing is surely worth supporting.

Head over to the Kickstarter page and consider backing the CursiveLogic project. It is time to reinforce that stake in the ground and ensure the passage of certain skills through the generations continues.

A final point from the ABC News:

We actually don’t use fountain pens and ink anymore, so maybe we should think differently about where we put our attention now.

Says who?