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Cursive in the digital age

September 07, 2013
  • The switch to the Common Core curriculum in schools may make signal the decline of cursive instruction.
The switch to the Common Core curriculum in schools may make signal the decline… (Los Angeles Times )

Editing a letters page provides some insight into the random topics that push hot buttons you didn't know existed. While most of the commentary sent to focuses on the big-item issues of the day (a possible military strike on Syria drew the most letters for the second week in a row), occasionally a less weighty subject will prompt impassioned responses.

For example, cursive.

Reacting to The Times' editorial Wednesday warning that the "handwriting may be on the wall" for cursive instruction in schools, nearly a dozen readers rose to script's defense. One reader demanded to know who actually wrote the editorial (which, being the opinion of The Times' editorial board, doesn't have a traditional byline).

Here is a selection of those responses.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor

Nina Gifford of Reseda says cursive and computers need not be mutually exclusive:

"As a teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, I want to note the advantage that teaching cursive gives students when they get to high school and college classrooms.

"Yes, typing notes on a laptop has many advantages, but the seductive Internet competes for a student's attention. And why not expect students to take accurate and complete notes by hand? This gives them the chance to reorganize and expand on them from memory while typing them up at home afterward.

"Cursive can help students stay focused in the classroom."

Educator Dolores Sheen of Los Angeles says mastering good handwriting has benefits in many disciplines:

"Cursive writing and correctly taught block printing are skills students need for academic success.

"Critical thinking skills are enriched by efforts that require focus, concentration and fine finger and eye/hand coordination. Repetition of interacting patterns is crucial for learning languages, mathematics, science, music and the performing arts.

"Much is to be gained from the self-esteem earned by students from this mastery (this is truly 'one size fits all'). Penmanship does not need expensive textbooks or workbooks, and it is certainly more profound than the computer or other digital aids, which should be considered as tools rather than crutches or teachers. Self-satisfaction is a real prize when one has control of the pen, which is mightier than the sword."

Los Angeles resident Stephen Miller Myrick III says the printed word deserves all the support it can get:

"It is bad enough that many college students cannot write a grammatically correct cover letter or business letter and cannot complete one sentence without using the word 'like' or the phrase 'it's like' four times. Now your editorial board accepts the downfall of the written word.

"What is next? Should we burn our books and use only tablets, since you so flippantly dismiss the communication form used for literature, love, business and our declarations of freedom for millenniums?"


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