Should children still learn cursive?

Expert says there are benefits for some

DETROIT – In this high tech world, is it still worthwhile for children to learn cursive?  It's a hotly debated issue.

Cursive writing is being cut from many curriculums across the county, but some states are fighting back. This fall, public schools in Louisiana will be required to teach cursive by third grade, joining at least 13 other states that now mandate cursive.

It's not required in Michigan, but we found plenty of people still want it taught for a variety of reasons.

"I actually can write faster in cursive, and I still take notes on the job all the time, so it's a useful skill to me," said Julie Bogas, a mother from Bloomfield Hills.

Michael Cayen, a father of two, also supports keeping cursive around.

"They're spoiled today with computers and just typing everything in. So I think it involves patience from the parents and the kids."

Rita Akselrod also finds value in learning cursive.

"I believe cursive is better," Akselrod said. "It's more advanced. It's more artistic. It requires a lot of controlling, concentrating. It's all connected to our brain, our thoughts, our ability to think, so I believe we need it."

But not everyone is convinced.

Learning cursive on your own

"I don't think it's necessary, honestly," said Patti Perkins, of Flint. "If people really want to do cursive and do it artistically, like a lot of people do, they can learn it by themselves."

Michael Adkins, from Saline, also questions the classroom time learning cursive requires.

"I think cursive is good for writing signatures, but the way the technology is advancing nowadays, it's not as relevant now," Adkins said. "A lot of stuff is done through e-mails, it's done over the computer and the internet."

But is there an educational benefit to learning cursive? We asked Dr. Stefani Hines, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Beaumont Children's Hospital, to weigh in.

"I think the more important question may be to ask is handwriting in general important?" Hines said. "The studies that we have definitely show that handwriting is important for learning and is important for retaining information."

That's because handwriting requires a more complex process in the brain.

Hines says one study found college students who took notes by hand performed better on tests compared to students who took notes on a laptop.

"Once you learn how to type, you can go pretty fast," Hines said. "But handwriting is by nature going to be slower. You have to be able to synthesize that information and write it down at the same time."

Cursive better for some kids

But are there benefits to cursive over printing? Hines said it depends. For children with learning problems, cursive is often the better option.

"There's fewer times you have to pick up your pencil from the paper," Hines said. "All the letters are connected. It's much more fluid, so sometimes children do better if the pen and the thoughts are flowing together with fewer interruptions."

Hines also recognized the nostalgia of cursive. She has her great-grandfather's spelling book from 1905 -- a sharp contrast to today's style of writing.

"I see the beautiful cursive handwriting," Hiness said. "Compared to what we do now -- I print, so I would never be able to do this."

Hines said for today's students, it's important to be exposed to both and choose the form of writing that they're most comfortable with.

"If cursive is what works for them, they go with that," Hines said. "If print works best for them, they go with that. Ultimately, it's important to have one that they're fluid with and that's legible, because it does aid in retention. It does aid in learning."

If you need another argument for keeping cursive around, there's this, from a 12-year-old named Ella.

"I think it's good to know because my parents write in cursive and sometimes I can't read what they're saying," she said.

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