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The Need for Cursive Writing
Posted: 04 November 2012 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My take.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Weird ideas about what makes for good handwriting are by no means confined to those educators.

At my prestigious English girls’s school (St Paul’s, FWIW) in the late 60s, we all had to learn and practise cod-medieval round-hand calligraphy (broad-nibbed dip pens, multi-ruled paper, the whole works) in the first year, this being held to improve our handwriting. Which was an absurd notion because the whole principle of this type of hand, which requires several loving strokes to create each single letter, is totally alien to normal handwriting, cursive or otherwise. I actually got quite competent at round-hand and enjoyed it, but it had no effect on my normal handwriting at all. That was already a disaster zone, created by a primary school headmistress whose obsession was that whereas forward-sloping vertical strokes were permissible, backward-sloping ones were NEVER acceptable, AT ALL, even for left-handers who couldn’t avoid smudging their text (we were obliged to use fountain pens, of course) or digging the pen into the paper except by adopting a hand position that created backward-sloping strokes.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You may be amused to know that in Australia we called it running writing.

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Posted: 05 November 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I was taught the same cursive writing system as SL in the north of England (ordinary government junior school) and South Africa (ordinary government junior school), with the same type of pens and specially lined paper so we knew the height of each and every letter.  Backward-sloping writing was also wrong. But at the end of primary school, every child could write legibly, if not necessarily neatly and this applied to both cursive and non-cursive script.

However, the illegible and poorly-formed handwriting of some students I’ve recently encountered in school makes me appreciate that the hours of effort the systems put into making sure what we wrote was legible, were not entirely wasted.  Teachers don’t need expensive educational studies to inform them about what they actually encounter in the classroom.  Educationalists, for obvious reasons, don’t like being told this, nor do people who are convinced only by educational studies.  There’s no need to spend hours and hours copying out tedious sentences but more time does need to be spent on letter formation in order to ensure that students’ writing is at least legible.

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Posted: 29 December 2012 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Mr.Wilton’s assessment and disagreement with Ms.Avery’s article on cursive writing is also based on his opinion rather than substantive facts.

Ms.Avery’s point that if students can’t write cursive, they can’t read cursive, is self-explanatory. It’s obvious that if students are not taught cursive writing they will have a problem reading it, mainly because of the lack of familiarity. 

Furthermore, cursive writing does entail more thought and skill than typing or clicking on a keyboard. It’s similar to reading rather than being read to. It seems logical that if one is writing a document or a letter by hand that he/she is more engaged mentally in trying to write neatly and grammatically. Typing facilitates this process and anything that facilitates an action usually requires less mental application.

Mr.Wilton also disputes and asks for evidence on Avery’s claim that students are continually distracted by technology, therefore, they spend fewer hours reading. Many articles have been written concurring with Avery’s position. Conversely, Wilton’s claim that students who text the most tend to score highest on tests of language ability is vague and misguided. The fact is, I repeat FACT, that the vocabulary of teenagers and young adults has drastically diminished in approximately the last sixty years. This is based on statistics, SAT scores and empirical evidence. Book reading is also in decline and this is primarily due to television and computer devices, which do not engage young people in deep thinking.

I emphatically refute Wilton’s assertion that the appeal of a handwritten note comes from the fact that it is not necessary. This is untrue. The appeal comes from the fact that someone took the time and effort to hand-write a note. In addition, if the penmanship is attractive it adds to the appeal and stimulates one’s imagination and discourse as to the author’s character and personality. Beautiful penmanship was always admired and in many instances determined one’s education and artistic ability.

Mr. Wilton accuses Ms. Avery and Mr.Ellis of failing to back up their statements, but he’s just as guilty; he’s not substantiated any of his absurd claims. 

The fact that Mr.Wilton thinks that cursive writing is a big waste of time and a mindless task is a demonstration of his shallowness and perhaps self-involvement. Calligraphy, painting, music composition et al., are all skills that are rapidly evaporating because of people such as Wilton who believe that these skills are dispensable.

Avery would support these skills in an ideal world, intimating that we are no longer living in an ideal world. This indirectly counters his position, but more significantly it substantiates what was once an ideal society: being able to cogitate and create a fine work of literature, a music composition, a work of art, and by doing so initiate a process of deep thinking rather than the desultory actions that computers seem to advocate.

[ Edited: 02 April 2013 08:43 PM by Richard ]
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Posted: 29 December 2012 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Wow. This one is my favorite:

It seems logical that if one is writing a document or a letter by hand that he/she is more engaged mentally in trying to write neatly and grammatically.

It’s almost certainly true that if one is physically engaged in the act of writing in cursive, then one is mentally engaged as well (unless of course one is a medium engaged in “automatic writing,") but you can’t cobble grammar onto your pithy tautology.

Grammar comes from my understanding of how my language works, and I use it equally whether I’m speaking, typing or writing in longhand. My use of grammar comes from my desire to communicate effectively, not from what my hands are doing.

It’s obvious that if students are not taught cursive writing they will have a problem reading it...

Saying that something is “obvious” isn’t an argument, it’s an unsubstantiated opinion; the very thing you claim to be against.

Carefully considering what one is saying is independent of whether one is speaking or writing or typing, as I would submit your post clearly demonstrates. Perhaps you should have written it out in cursive first.

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Posted: 29 December 2012 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Seems a very weird kind of argument, Richard.

To my mind, cursive writing is harder and slower than typing, especially for children. My four year old can use a standard keyboard like a whiz but it will be years before I expect him to even write his own name legibly in cursive script.

As children develop, the extra difficulty of cursive writing means that, when it is required, part of the effort that should be going into important matters such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, logical narrative development and so on will instead be diverted towards making sure one’s loops are even and correctly oriented. Cursive script gets in the way of writing.

This is just what seems likely to me based on my general ideas about how the brain works. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is obvious, logical, or FACT. It is a matter that could only really be resolved by formal scientific investigation, not by musing.

You begin your first post on the forum with Mr.Wilton’s assessment and disagreement with Ms.Avery’s article on cursive writing is also based on his opinion rather than substantive facts and then lay out a series of unsupported hypotheses with extraordinary confidence. Can you back up these strong claims with evidence?

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Posted: 29 December 2012 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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To happydog:

“…Pithy tautology”, is quite an oxymoronic description.
I don’t think that you’re familiar with these words.  The definition for pithy is: precisely meaningful; forceful and brief.  Obviously, I have to assume by your snide remarks concerning my posting that the description counters with your true opinion.

If you thought my comment was tautological, (redundant) then this would contradict your pithy adjective. Words are very important, but they lose their importance when used incorrectly.By the way, my posting was not redundant, nor was it pithy; it was accurate.

You failed to comprehend my statement, which was self-explanatory, that writing entails grammatical accuracy.  What I was trying to intimate, (perhaps I was too vague) was that a hand-written letter or document must be written with more accuracy because an error, grammatical or orthographical, cannot be deleted as it can with a computer. 

I never claimed that I was opposed to opinions. That’s an inaccurate assumption on your part. I’m opposed to opinions without a criterion. Opinions are not facts; therefore, they must have a foundation to support an argument.

I was quite punctilious in what I wrote in my last posting; the word obvious neither undermines my argument nor affects its relevancy. My use of the word obvious referred to what Ms. Avery was implying not to what I thought was obvious.
Obviously, you failed to understand.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 12:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Methinks Richard is a reincarnation.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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To OP Tipping:
If my argument is “weird” then I must assume that Ms. Avery’s article also falls into your category. 

You claim that writing is more difficult for children.  Therefore, we must eliminate it?  I don’t understand your reasoning.  Must we dumb down everything to make it easier for children?  I agree that handwriting might be slower than typing, but I don’t think that it should be eliminated. Prior to the nineteenth century everything was written by hand. Entire volumes were written by hand in beautiful and legible calligraphy.

My arguments are neither hypothetical nor unsupported. That’s a presumptuous conclusion on your part. The declining vocabulary of young people is a fact, as I asserted in my first posting. What evidence do you need?  Young people are reading less demanding literature; that’s a fact. What evidence do you need?  Numerous books, magazine and newspaper articles have been written by established academics concerning these issues. 

Rather than iterate what I wrote in my last posting I suggest that you read it, for it will address some of the issues that you raised.
My interest in language is what brought me to Wordorigins website.  Wilton’s posting compelled me to articulate my opinion. You question the veracity of my arguments but you don’t question Mr.Wilton’s , or perhaps anyone who disagrees with me.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 03:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I hope Eliza’s right. Don’t want to think there’s two of them.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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If I didn’t think I was feeding a troll I would ask Richard if he would have written

Mr.Wilton’s assessment and disagreement with Ms.Avery’s article on cursive writing are also based on his opinion rather than substantive facts

rather that the ungrammatical

*Mr.Wilton’s assessment and disagreement with Ms.Avery’s article on cursive writing is also based on his opinion rather than substantive facts

if he had written it in cursive before submitting it.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I agree with ElizaD.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The fact is, I repeat FACT, that the vocabulary of teenagers and young adults has drastically diminished in approximately the last sixty years. This is based on statistics, SAT scores and empirical evidence.

Please cite them. The only readily accessible statistic I could find was average SAT scores, which remain largely unchanged over the years. (A widely touted drop in scores this past year is simply within the normal variation.) Although I’m not sure how sound a year-by-year comparison of SAT scores is as I believe they normalize the scores each year, so the averages should come out about the same every year.

There are lots of opinion pieces written about the supposed decline in verbal skills, but in every instance where I have been able to find the actual statistics upon which such claims are based, the decline turns out not to have been there.

Book reading is also in decline and this is primarily due to television and computer devices, which do not engage young people in deep thinking.

Yes, the number of books read has declined over recent years, but the amount of total reading (not just books) has skyrocketed with the advent of computers and the internet. Similarly, people are writing more than ever before (just on a keyboard, not in longhand). (And while fewer people are reading books, more books are being sold than ever before. That’s not really relevant to the argument here, but goes to the canard that traditional print publication is on the decline as a business.)

And still, you have not provided one shred of evidence that cursive writing improves verbal capabilities. It is not “obvious.” Simply spending more time in the mechanics of writing does not have any apparent connection to the quality of the writing. And the statement that it does because one must get it perfect before setting it down on paper flies in the face of the experience of every single professional writer, who will all tell you that the “secret” to great writing is revision. Revise, revise, revise, and then revise again. That’s much easier and more efficient on a computer. Plus, it also flies in the face of what we know neurolinguistic process of writing. You simply cannot hold more than two to four seconds worth of spoken speech in your brain. Any grammatically complex sentences and coherent paragraphs have to be restructured on paper (or screen).

Conversely, Wilton’s claim that students who text the most tend to score highest on tests of language ability is vague and misguided.

How is is vague and misguided. It’s directly on point. See David Crystal’s “Txting: The Gr8 Db8” for a comprehensive overview of the impact that texting has on verbal capabilities, and it’s overwhelmingly positive.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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To Faldage:

You classify me as a troll because I don’t agree with your position or because I countered Wilton’s posting, or perhaps both?

You’re correct that a compound subject requires a singular verb, an error, which you seemed to discern, (troll) but for what purpose? So who is doing the trolling?

Although I appreciate your grammatical discernment, but what is your purpose? It does not address the debate.

I think I articulated my position quite clearly, but apparently I’m being excoriated by a mindset that veers toward conformism rather than common sense.

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Posted: 30 December 2012 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dave Wilton - 30 December 2012 04:57 AM

You simply cannot hold more than two to four seconds worth of spoken speech in your brain.

I don’t think I understand this. Can you expand on what it means in practice?

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