Earlier, I wrote a piece about the strange and sad demise of cursive handwriting, having noticed that my adult students print their in-class written assignments, as if they were children. Teachers for the most part have given up on teaching this, contending that it takes too much time.
It does take time--sometimes too much--and the issue remains controversial as a recent (April 30) debate among New York Times bloggers reveals.
Suzanne Ascherson, a representative of an early childhood education company, might have a vested interest in her argument, which is that learning to write cursively improves brain development. "Cursive handwriting," she says, "stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing."
She cites the College Board's conclusion that students who wrote in cursive on the SAT essay exam "scored slightly higher" than those who printed.
Yet she does not present any evidence of her theory that learning handwriting actually helps in the areas of thinking, language, and working memory. Of course, her essay is only a brief blog post.
I agree with her than students need several options. For me, a combination of printing and cursive writing works well in note-taking, where printing would seem to slow down the process.
What is missing from this debate is the problem I have discovered: that students who never learned to write cursively cannot read it, so that when I write them a note or make a comment on their essays, they say, "Huh?"
If teachers cannot spend time practicing the Palmer method that I learned in the 4th grade with their kids, they should let them become familiar enough with it so they can at least read what is written cursively.
In the meantime, I would like to see more evidence supporting the benefits of learning cursive writing.