A Note From the Head of School:
A Case for Cursive
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill requiring all Wisconsin elementary schools to teach cursive writing. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, who has written and passed the bill in the Assembly for 2 years in a row, says that cursive instruction should be mandatory because it stimulates more parts of the brain and leads to deeper learning. Yet, with several groups including superintendents, school boards, and administrators fighting against it, most likely the bill will die in the Senate (again). However, I would like to stand up for the case of cursive in our schools.
Several years ago, I learned that writing in cursive is really important for students with dyslexia because it helps to prevent letter reversal that can commonly happen. For example, when I was younger, I struggled with how to write lowercase "b" and "d." Both looked the same and even making two fists with my thumbs up and putting them together "to make a bed"(see below) didn't help. When one writes in cursive, that letter confusion isn't as much of a challenge because the sensory experience is different for each letter. Additionally, when writing in cursive, you do not pick your pencil off the paper until the end of the word. As you learn to spell through written practice, the word is stored in your brain as a whole unit. When the word is written in manuscript, it is stored in your brain as s-i-n-g-l-e letter units versus an entire word. Therefore, remembering how to spell words is so much more efficient when spelling practice is in cursive. It is also much faster to write! Students who are reluctant to write in print are often more willing to try cursive because it is more like drawing.
When we look at cursive through the lens of neuroscience, research demonstrates that it is important for cognitive development. Cursive helps to create functional specialization. It's basically one of the major premises of the RCS educational program which is multi-sensory instruction. Cursive itself is a multi-sensory experience. It stimulates the brain into forming more complex neural pathways because the act of writing in cursive requires us to simultaneously integrate fine motor skills with both tactile and visual processing abilities. Therefore, if self-generated movements are included, learning occurs more rapidly with cursive because more parts of the brain are activated. In looking at EKGs of adolescent brains, keyboard typing does not have the same activation effect on the brain as cursive.
On school tours, many visitors are often surprised that at Radcliffe Creek School we teach cursive writing. Many of my colleagues at other schools often tell me that there certainly are not enough hours in the school day to teach cursive and it is archaic. While I most certainly see the need for students to have typing instruction, I would like to make the case that cursive continues to be important. It might actually be the very best and fastest way to learn new information.
Yours in penmanship,
Head of School