Thursday, November 19, 2015

Montessori Education Keeps Cursive Writing Alive

          During the middle of September, as school was starting, a NJ radio station posed a question about writing in cursive.  The question was, “Is it a good thing that cursive writing is no longer taught in our public schools and should cursive writing continue to be a dying art?”  Of course I heard some unintelligent and unsubstantiated answers.  Then I heard answers one might expect from both sides of the argument.  Some callers said things like, “What is the point of cursive, writing is dying out, computers will completely take over by the time our children are grown up, and the only thing we need cursive anymore for is our signature.”  On the other side of the argument callers said, “Cursive is a beautiful art, I think it is sad that they don’t teach it in school anymore, and cursive was the stepping stone for me to become an artist and one other person said cursive started when our country started.  Regardless, whether there is a right answer or a wrong answer, I feel very fortunate to teach in a system where cursive is revered.  When will enough be enough?  When will families stop letting people who are not trained in education decide what is best for their children?  There are clear benefits to writing in cursive and we should not let it become a “dying art.”  It is not an art form, but a beautiful form of communication that has benefits to the brain.  Learning cursive creates the opportunity in the brain to subconsciously be able to make connections during interactions in life.  Furthermore, I strongly suggest that this would not even be a topic of conversation if it was not for computers and unlimited fonts. 
          Like any Montessori teacher might do, first, let’s start with a brief history of cursive.  January 23rd is National Handwriting Day, which is a time to acknowledge the history and penmanship that our nation was founded on.  Yet, non-educators are trying to do away with it, to push more typing and screen time on us whether it be directly or indirectly.  Why is penmanship, cursive, celebrated on this day?  According to, it is because it is John Hancock’s birthday.  This day is in remembrance of his iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence.  This information alone is a lot of history to preserve, educate each other and our children.  We shouldn’t let the fast paced age of computers push our civilization’s history of writing out.  Computers should be left to be used as a tool for information and communication.
Originally, the Romans borrowed a form of cursive from the Etruscans and were the first to develop lower case script, which, flowed into modern day cursive.  By the late eighth century, Charlegmagne assigned a monk to produce a standardized craft.  From the influence of Roman characters, Carolingian Miniscule was created to feature lowercase and uppercase letters for maximum legibility.  From there the history continues to a form of cursive which became known as the Spencerian Method and then Austin Norman Palmer replaced that method during the turn of the century with a slightly different approach in American classrooms.  This form of cursive evolved and changed from there up until the present.  So, for centuries, cursive has been an integral part of our history’s way of communication.
            We are on the brink of losing the ability to write in cursive and yet now we have research to validate it to those who are becoming successful in taking it away from our children and our future.  So, the benefits of cursive handwriting based on an article entitled What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades by science writer Maria Konnikova.  She states, “Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information.  In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters – but how.” This has been proven by measured brain activity during writing, tracing and typing activities.  So, writing in cursive creates more brain activity than typing and it generates more words and ideas. It is a form of self-expression.  Furthermore, the science of graphology or the analysis of handwriting tells us that one’s personality traits are linked to the way one writes. To eliminate cursive is to make everyone the same.  Since the start of our Industrial Revolution and standardized public education, the government and politics has done a great job at pushing children through the system like factory workers.  Yet, Montessori preserves the individual and equips him/her to express themselves in their own unique way according to his/her own talents, characteristics and tendencies.
If you do further research you can find what our future generations will be missing in other school settings and why it matters. 
And so, I leave you with that.  Hopefully, your curiosity has been tapped and you look to do more, or say more or write more and please let it be in cursive.  Give yourself the opportunity to hold on to what is quickly becoming our past.  Learn for yourself and see that teaching and practicing cursive will help you and our children to better make other connections in life just as we are meant to connect our letters with a pencil or pen.