Many schools are removing cursive lessons from their classrooms, basing this decision on the prevalence of technology in modern life. This decision may not be best for our children though, and it is already having a major impact. Jan Olsen, occupational therapist and President of Handwriting Without Tears, and Margaret Shepherd, calligrapher and author of Learn World Calligraphy, tell us why cursive is still an important life skill today.
The ability to write and read cursive helps an individual to be prepared for many of the situations children will face later on. When society and teachers began to turn away from cursive, many people started to struggle “socially, educationally, and vocationally,” Olsen says. Although cursive seems complex on the surface, Olsen stresses, it is actually easier to write because of the continuous flow and easier to read, because the words don’t run together.
Handwriting is also a way to express yourself and to make an impression on the people around you. Shepherd encourages people to take control of their writing, especially their signature. Learning to write well gives a sense of self-respect and power over how people see you through your handwriting. Shepherd says that handwriting needs to be exercised like any skill, and she isn’t afraid that the need for this skill is going away anytime soon, as we can never predict where technology will turn to next.
To learn more about the importance of handwriting and our guests, visit the links below.
Jan Olsen, occupational therapist and President of Handwriting Without Tears
Margaret Shepherd, calligrapher & artist and author of Learn World Calligraphy
With all of our technology and reliance on computers, many schools are phasing out some handwriting lessons. Specifically, schools have stopped teaching cursive. We talk to two experts about whether that’s a good idea.
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Most of us remember a time in our early education when we practiced handwriting and cursive. Classes were spent tracing letters and perfecting slanted writing. Today, many adults possess useful handwriting skills, but they may be the last generation to do so. Children are only receiving longhand writing training from kindergarten through second grade, or ages 5-7. We talk with Jan Olsen, occupational therapist and President of Handwriting Without Tears, as she recalls the Whole Language movement of the 1970s which pushed for a greater consideration of content within writing, rather than quality of handwriting. Overtime, this has led to the reduction of time allocated to handwriting instruction in schools. Olsen argues that since the focus on language has switched, teachers are no longer being trained on the best handwriting practices. She says, “That’s the dirty little secret in education. [Teachers] don’t want to teach handwriting because they don’t know how.” Olsen also mentions the importance of continued practice, stating that our proficiency in writing is traced back to when we stopped practicing it. So, for example, an adult who only practiced handwriting through the age of eight has the handwriting proficiency of an eight-year-old. Olsen stresses the necessity of cursive writing, saying “There are still many times when being able to write in cursive, or to read in cursive, is an important life skill socially, educationally, vocationally.”
Margaret Shepherd, calligrapher, artist, and author of Learn World Calligraphy, believes that cursive is not only important for communicating thoughts and ideas, but also personality. She points out how signatures are very personal and unique, and suggests that the way we write and sign documents plays a large factor in whether or not other people will perceive them as important. Shepherd explains how professionals used to be trained in handwriting, and shares that the rarity of handwritten notes and messages today makes them all the more precious and useful when conducting business. She also speculates that just as technology and keyboarding have replaced long hand writing, in the future some other medium of communication will surpass typing. Shepherd hypothesizes that longhand writing on tablets will be used soon, as such instruments exist in our world already.
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