Cursive: The Debate Thickens…

Last fall I had occasion to sit at a table with some key players in the Ministry of Education.  I happened to have a conversation with an individual who quickly let me know her feelings about the current trends in Education.  She prefaced her remarks by saying that she was “speaking as a parent” and complained to me about the lack of time her child spends in the classroom learning the basics of cursive writing.  She also complained about the lack of use of textbooks.  I have pondered those comments for a number of months now, wondering if there were many other parents who shared her sentiments. I wondered if we had somehow failed to communicate the importance of 21st century skills to parents such as this. At the same time, I wondered if she was right. Have we disregarded elements of a traditional classroom that really should be preserved within our current educational environment?  

Flash forward to April 2014 and May 2014.  I was privileged to meet a wonderful individual, Heather Victoria Held, ( who makes a living as a calligrapher and teaches handwriting to interested individuals – individuals like me.  I have always been drawn to calligraphy and, on occasion, have been lucky enough to add to my own personal collection of fountain pens and inks.  It was through the local pen store, Phidon Pens, that I learned about Heather’s classes and eventually signed up for Handwriting Parts 1 and 2.  


At the beginning of the first class, Heather provided some rather strong arguments to advocate for the continued use of the actual physical writing process as a way of organizing one’s thoughts and ideas. She spoke eloquently about the meditative quality of cursive writing and pointed out that our brains actually process thoughts differently when the physical act of handwriting is involved.  I chatted with her for a while after class.  She found it curious that my job involved teaching others how to imbed technology into daily learning yet here I was, taking the handwriting class.

It was late that day as I reflected on her ideas and was doing some research (on the computer)  that I stumbled upon the following blog post:

  As I read, I compared the ideas listed with my earlier conversation with Heather.  I was reminded once again of my belief that we must have a strong pedagogical foundation for 21st century learning. We must continue to build upon what we know are effective teaching strategies.   As I have stated before, technology integration is not an “add on”.  It is designed to be woven throughout daily learning both inside and outside of school hours.  In present day learning, the choice of an appropriate tool for the task may very well include the use of pen, ink and paper … or a computer.  Each is not mutually exclusive of the other. Maybe this is a different example of a blended classroom – blended with traditional learning within the context of 21st century skills. Maybe using cursive writing is just the tool that a struggling writer might use to challenge the brain to process thoughts in a different way. Maybe I need to challenge my own brain in this way too?   

 Hmm… I just may decide to take a fountain pen to work from now on.  What about you?

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3 Responses to Cursive: The Debate Thickens…

  1. Kellie says:

    Interesting read! I often find myself reaching for pen and paper when I have some serious thinking to do. It’s a process that just can’t be replaced by a computer for me. I wonder though, is this because that is the way I had always done it? Is this different for today’s students? Are they as
    Ikely to reach for pen and paper when struggling through a problem, or are they more likely to grab a keyboard?

    • normagedsb says:

      Hmm.. very interesting question indeed! I would hope that students would have had the opportunity to choose their most effective tool for their processing …. but I’m not so sure that is always the case. It makes me think, more than ever, that your work with students around self-regulation is key. If a student has an awareness of their learning styles/needs/strengths/challenges might they advocate more for the use of tools that efficiently support their learning? Would they choose the pen and paper for precisely the same reason that you have articulated? Interesting idea…I will look forward to our further F2F discussions:) Thanks Kellie!!

  2. adunsiger says:

    Norma, I read your post earlier today, and I’ve been thinking about it since then. You make a number of important points here, but the two key ones for me are “understanding the pedagogical reasons behind what we do” and “articulating our decisions to parents.” Last year, in Grade 5, I tried many things that were contrary to what numerous students were used to: I didn’t have regular desks, we only wrote one quiz all year, and we never used a textbook (among other things). This was a big change for parents too. But I was very clear to parents on why we were doing what we were doing, and how these changes aligned with our school focus on student voice, student choice, and inquiry learning. And parents were unbelievably supportive of these changes, and the students did incredibly well. We need to explain our choices to parents, but we also need to welcome them into the conversation. How are we hearing their voices?

    As you know, I have many mixed feelings on cursive writing, and maybe even more on the use of textbooks (which I noticed that you mentioned in here, so I had to say something). Maybe where we need to start with all of these topics is with the questions: Why are we using them? How do they benefit students? How do they align with our school needs and/or school focus? Do they benefit all students, and if not, how are we addressing this? I think that it’s worth discussing the answers to these questions as educators, but also, with all stakeholders in education. I’d be curious to know what others think.


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