As youth write off script, educators defend it


Kim Kurtz, left, a Youngstown State University student from Vandalia, Ohio, prints her class notes and writes in cursive only when signing her name. Above, YSU junior Ryan McGiffin of Girard never uses cursive. Though his signature is legible, McGiffin said it is “terrible.”


Wiley Collett of Troy, Ohio, a Youngstown State University sophomore, shows how he prints and cursively writes his name.


YSU junior Ryan McGiffin of Girard never uses cursive. Though his signature is legible, McGiffin said it is “terrible.”


Rayana McGuire, a Youngstown State University sophomore, said she rarely writes in cursive. Need proof? Check out how she signs her last name.

By Denise Dick

Rayana McGuire of Youngstown rarely writes in cursive.

“The only time I write in cursive is when I’m signing my name,” the Youngstown State University sophomore said.

She’s not alone.

Every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin releases a Mindset List “to reflect the world view of entering first-year students.”

First on the list for the college class of 2014: “Few in the class know how to write in cursive.”

So in this age of text messaging, is cursive going the way of the typewriter and cassette tapes?

For taking notes in class, McGuire prints, and when she’s communicating with friends, it’s email, or more often, texts.

It’s a similar story with Boardman High School sophomore Richard Steiner. He hasn’t written in cursive since sixth grade. Other than his signature, he doesn’t use it, opting to print in class.

Judah Johngrass, a junior at Boardman, uses a combination of printing and cursive for her notes. Her demonstration resembled printed letters with connecting pen strokes.

Indiana recently dropped cursive writing as part of required instruction and mandated that elementary school children learn keyboarding.

At least part of the reason some states have abandoned such instruction is the Common Core standards, an initiative adopted by most states that outlines the knowledge and skills children should learn in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The standards don’t include cursive, but they do include keyboarding.

While Ohio has adopted the standards, it hasn’t dropped cursive writing from the curriculum and Mahoning Valley schools teach it in elementary school.

“The Common Core State Standards emphasize keyboarding, but the Ohio Department of Education continues to encourage the development of cursive,” Patrick Gallaway, an ODE spokesman, said in an email. “In addition, we will be developing lessons to go in our Model Curriculum that have cursive instruction (reading and writing of cursive) embedded within them. Our goal is to help teachers see multiple ways to instruct cursive efficiently within the context of what they already teach, rather than separating it from the tasks of reading and writing instruction.”

But it’s an unused skill by many young people.

Kim Kurtz, a YSU sophomore from Vandalia, Ohio, prints her class notes and only writes in cursive when she’s signing her name

Then, she has to think about it. It takes me a long time,” she said, joking that she worries her hesitation will make people question whether it’s actually her signature or she’s forging someone else’s.

Wiley Collett, a YSU sophomore from Troy, Ohio, is an exception.

He takes notes in cursive even though must of his outside-of-school communication occurs electronically.

But YSU junior Ryan McGiffin, of Girard, said he never uses cursive. He prints in all caps in class.

“It’s easier to distinguish between the letters and numbers,” said McGiffin, who takes many math courses.

When he wrote his name to demonstrate, he hesitated with his pen.

“Oh, that’s terrible,” McGiffin said while inspecting the finished product.

Steve Graham, a researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, has studied handwriting and says there’s still a need for students to learn some form of writing.

While most homes have a computer, most students use pen and paper while in school, he said.

We live in a hybrid world and handwriting hasn’t disappeared, Graham said.

“People form opinions about the quality of your ideas based on legibility of your handwriting,” he said.

Studies have shown that when the same paper was written neatly and written less so, the paper that was less legible was rated of lower quality.

“As long as we live in this hybrid world, it’s important for them to, in a sense, master this skill early and efficiently,” Graham said.

That could be done in about 15 minutes per day, two days per week, he said.

Like Judah, the Boardman High School student, about two-thirds of students surveyed write in a combination of print and cursive, Graham said.

And those students tend to write faster than those who use either print or cursive alone.

“Our take is that kids pick the letter forms that are the easiest and quickest for them to produce,” Graham said.

At Liberty schools, students focus on cursive handwriting in fourth grade.

Superintendent Stanley Watson said schools no longer put as much emphasis on the handwriting style as they used to.

“Personally, I think it adds value,” Watson said. “There’s a developmental type of thing you learn from cursive writing. There’s the discipline and the mechanics of doing it, but I also believe there’s an artistic and aesthetic part of learning to write cursive.”

Children also have to learn it in order to write their signatures, something that’s still unique to each individual, he said.

In Youngstown schools, students learn cursive in third grade, said Beverly Schumann, director of curriculum and community support.

Children in the Austintown schools learn cursive handwriting primarily in second and third grade. The trend of cursive instruction’s phase out is troubling to Superintendent Vince Colaluca.

“Even if they don’t know how to write it, they still have to know how to read it,” he said.

At Boardman schools, students learn cursive in third grade.

Linda Ross, director of curriculum and instruction, believes that instruction should continue.

“I think it’s important to have functional skills for life and cursive is one of those and should be taught as part of the English language curriculum,” Ross said.

Ross believes the instruction and the handwriting style still have merit.

“It’s just a given that we need to teach it,” Ross said. “Everyone will have to write their signature at least once in their life.”

Students in Poland learn cursive writing midway through second grade and both Superintendent Robert Zorn and first grade teacher Susan Flasco believe it serves a purpose.

When students write things down, they’re more likely to remember the information, Zorn said.

“Writing it down and taking notes may be old fashioned, but it sure does work,” the superintendent said.

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