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10 Things Your Kids May Never Read Because Common Core Neglects Cursive

Some important (and trivial) pieces of American history will be unavailable to them if cursive is a foreign language.

Paula Bolyard


December 2, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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One of the casualties of the Common Core standards may be that this generation of children will never learn cursive handwriting because the new standards emphasize keyboard skills and fail to include cursive. Currently, at least 41 states do not require that students learn to read and write in cursive, with many states leaving the decision up to individual school districts. In Ohio, prior to the implementation of the Common Core standards, the state recommended that children learn cursive in grades 3 to 4. Now, it’s optional. Between the emphasis on keyboard skills in the Common Core and the fact that it will not be included in testing (tests are administered via computer), schools are likely to continue to de-emphasize what once was a mandatory skill for all school children.

To be fair, the decline in cursive began before the onset of Common Core. In 2006 only fifteen percent of students taking the SAT wrote their essay answers in cursive and in 2007, ten percent of teachers said their schools no longer taught it.

Proponents of cursive handwriting point to the benefits: improved fine motor skills, development in thinking, language and working memory and increased speed and efficiency. But perhaps the greatest loss will be the ability to read original historical documents. Students who are not taught to read in cursive will miss out on both important documents like the Declaration of Independence and more trivial pieces of the American story, like signed photographs from celebrities.

Below are some examples of what the Common Core generation will miss if we neglect to teach them cursive:


1.  The U.S. Declaration of Independence

Though Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence, master penman Timothy Matlack was recruited to put a feather quill pen to parchment on the original document. In those days, elegant penmanship was a considered a sign of social status and master penmen like Matlack were commissioned to copy important documents like deeds, birth and marriage certificates. Future Americans who visit the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence won’t have the thrill their predecessors experienced of squinting at the faded cursive words and John Hancock’s signature — they’ll have to rely on the printed transcript.


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All Comments   (12)
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Geez. This country is going down the toilet. (That is the phrase that keeps running through my head as I read this.) You'll be happy to know that I am already teaching cursive to my 2nd grader. She can already sign her name. Yet another reason to homeschool.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Isn't parental control a wonderful thing? :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Common Core also fails to encourage the teaching of knapping flint.

How can our kids fully understand the technology around them when they cannot recreate how it started?

I'm sure their appreciation for the Declaration is also lessened by their inability to cut their own quills or make their own ink, like Jefferson did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Future Americans who visit the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence won’t have the thrill their predecessors experienced of squinting at the faded cursive words and John Hancock’s signature — they’ll have to rely on the printed transcript."

They won't?
There is a test on reading cursive that you have to pass to be able to enter the National Archives?
One is biologically and/or psychologically incapable of experiencing a "thrill" upon viewing a document of historical significance simply because they are incapable of reading it? (And is that similar to the inability to experience a "thrill" when listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony that limits those who cannot understand German?)

" I wonder if my grandkids will be able to read these precious family heirlooms if I pass them along some day?"

Because of course those family heirlooms are so precious that you cannot conceive of transcribing them so that your grandkids will be able to read them and enjoy the recipes.
Conversely I remember trying to deal with the increasingly obscure cursive of my Aunt which eventually became unreadable at a casual glance and required several readings and assumptions because of context to decipher.

If only there were some simpler, more universal, script available for the transmission of such knowledge!
And if only schools focused on that more exclusively!
Why I recall when my penmanship in block writing was so good it was mistaken for being typewritten. Then the plague of cursive was inflicted on me, and even I could barely decipher my scrawl.

Artistic ability and aesthetics are all well and good, but to pretend everyone needs to indulge a particular variety is the same sort of cultural drivel that drives "progressive" "art".
To assert that people will be incapable of reading or appreciating certain critical documents because of it is as absurd as the Islamist claim that the Koran is only comprehensible in a particular dialect of Arabic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My son had someone write in cursive in his yearbook a couple of years ago - and he couldn't read it. That's how I found out that the education system had stopped teaching cursive writing at all (see my original comments as to how I addressed that shortcoming).

I refused to decipher it for him even though it was clearly legible to anyone who knew how to write in cursive.

He can now read what it said, and should be able to do so at any time in the future he needs to read anyone's cursive handwriting or read something that was written decades ago in old records.

As for reading the US Constitution from the original cursive, this likewise is useful as I don't for a second believe that politicians one day won't try to lay claim that the document says something other than what it does - and an illiterate population that can't even read the original would be completely in the dark as to the subterfuge.

How about that "good and plenty" clause John Conyers (Democrat from Michigan on the frickin' House Judiciary Committee) claimed was in there?

Your references to Islam are silly and a side show not relevant to the issue of cursive writing - but I'll note one thing you may be completely clueless about regarding translations from one language to another.

When you do so, you will always lose some of the taste or feel of the original text. Information wise you may be able to communicate what the basic gist of the document was - but you won't be able to communicate the 'feel' of it.

An excellent example is "Les Misérables".

This book, even when translated into English, usually is left with it's French language title as it just doesn't translate well into English.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The decline of cursive is related to the decline of spelling. Clicking a key on a keyboard doesn't create the same kind of mental record as writing a letter or word by hand. When spelling gets weaker so does vocabulary, I think, because we are less aware of word roots and connections between words. I would think this has implications for learning foreign languages as well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but none of these documents were written by people who knew how to use a personal computer, or text on a phone.

And none of us, any more, is taught how to change a typewriter ribbon. The art of calligraphy, with a fountain pen or quill, is outdated too, and was pretty much gone by the time I was in high school. I was taught cursive, and gradually gave it up (because mine was illegible) starting in high school, where one of my teachers prohibited it in the interests of being able to read my writing.

Technology changes how we communicate with one another. Yes it's sad, but your article implies that children should be taught this. The problem is, these days even a laundry or grocery list goes on your smart phone. There's almost no reason to write with a pen(cil) any more.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

I was in a meeting recently with my boss and taking some notes of the decisions we were making.

Had I tried to print out everything I could never have kept up. I wrote it in cursive - which is much faster.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Heck, I have earned some solid money, being able to read all kinds of 19th century cursive, and transcribing pages and pages of archived letters for a client who wanted searchable word documents.
I have horrible, horrible handwriting myself - and I was terribly impressed with those Victorian-era scribes who could write in such graceful handwriting that it was almost as readable as print.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I discovered belatedly that my own children were not being taught cursive.

My approach was to teach them myself (once I verified with the teachers that this was, in fact, the case - I was floored...anyway....).

I printed out a typed version of "The Gods of the Copybook Headings".

I also wrote out - in cursive - every letter of the alphabet in both upper and lower case.

I provided these materials to my kids with the incentive that, upon completely writing that poem out in cursive to my satisfaction, they would each receive a cash award of $10.

Seemed to work pretty well, and it didn't take millions in tax dollars to accomplish. :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Brilliant! My dad, who never had much use for religion, used to make me sit at the kitchen table copying Psalms after my third grade teacher wrote in my report card, "Paula's handwriting is poor and needs improvement." Back then, parents didn't demand intervention or an IEP -- they took responsibility for their childrens' education and made sure they didn't fall behind.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Below are some examples of what the Common Core generation will miss if we neglect to teach them cursive:

1. The U.S. Declaration of Independence"

Well, now what a coincidence. Besides, it's just some blather about, as Dear Liar terms it, "negative rights."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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