NB schools teaching cursive for fancy illiteracy

NB schools teaching cursive for fancy illiteracy

New Brunswick — The debate has been raging over whether to keep instructing children how to write in cursive, and New Brunswick schools have at last opted to continue teaching the dying art.

“It’ll still be the same grammatically flawed nonsense riddled with spelling errors we’ve come to expect from graduates of New Brunswick schools, but it’ll look pretty, and we think that’s good enough,” said Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dominic Cardy.

“No, these kids won’t be able to do taxes, write a resumé, argue a point without resorting to insults and name-calling — but they’ll be able to read ancient birthday cards that have collected dust on top of refrigerators for decades. And they’ll be able to sign their unemployment cheques with an artistic flourish.

“We need to take a win where we can get one. It takes just a few days for someone to learn cursive, but it takes years to learn real writing skills. And given our time and budgetary constraints, the choice wasn’t tough.”

Advocates for cursive fought tooth and nail to keep it in schools.

“I work at a museum and my eyesight is failing,” said Shirley Olsen. “I need to hire kids for summer internships who can read the cursive on historical documents to me. You know, just so I can be sure they still say the same things as they always did back when I could read them myself. So yes, I’m quite thankful kids will continue to learn this dwindling art form.

“Now, if they could only tell time on an analog clock or fill out their work applications, we’d be laughing!”

Some parents are indifferent to cursive classes, saying there are more important things to focus on in school.

“What about teaching them how to actually write a complete sentence, in either official language?” said Mary Everton, mother of two teens. “To my knowledge, neither of my kids can speak French and they’ve been in French immersion for years. They can forge my signature on a permission slip, though — I guess that’s all that matters, eh?”

“Kids can’t write even with the help of spellcheck,” said Bob Horton, whose kids have graduated and moved away. “Adults in New Brunswick can’t, either — I mean, just look at the comments on CBC any given day if you want proof — and cursive takes away that crutch. It’ll look fancy, but it’ll still make no sense. It’ll be hilariously bad.”

  1. Handwriting matters: does cursive matter? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    The fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive: though they aren’t print-writers either. Highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Looping your p’s and g’s may please your teacher — if your teacher values loopiness over legibility and overall performance.

    Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds —once they read ordinary print.

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

    Cursive’s cheerleaders repeatedly claim the support of research — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant. The usual form of misrepresentation is to take the abundant research that shows important benefits for handwriting in any of its forms (including printing) and to claim falsely that those advantages are limited to cursive.
    (By the way, students who live where schools have mandated cursive for years or decades don’t turn out any smarter or more skillful — in academics or in fine-motor graces — than students living anywhere else.)

    What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any member of the legal profession!)
    ? Questioned document examiners (specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

    Demanding cursive in order to save handwriting is like demanding stovepipe hats and crinolines in order to save clothing.

    Yours for better letters,
    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works


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