Sheila Rosen is so old school, she calls herself a dinosaur. Her third-graders at Vineland K-8 Center in Kendall still learn cursive writing, defying the national trend to de-emphasize it.
“A teacher said to me, I can’t believe you’re doing that, it’s not a tested skill, why in the world would you bother, why waste your time when you could be working on an FCAT skill,” Rosen said, recounting an exchange with a colleague.
Rosen thinks learning cursive stimulates brain development.
“College Board recently came out with a study that showed that children who complete their essay on the College Board exams in cursive score higher,” Rosen said.
But nationally and locally, school districts, including Miami-Dade and Broward, see cursive almost as a quaint old skill eclipsed by laptops, iPads, email and texting.
“We just don’t see it as essential anymore, that there’s really no reason to teach cursive when people are writing in print and moving to typing and other technological tools,” explains Dr. Laura Dinehart, education professor at Florida International University.
Dinehart points out the Common Core curriculum doesn’t include cursive, and very few people use classic cursive, anyway. Most people write with a mixture of manuscript and cursive letters, and the thought among educators is that kids will naturally learn to connect letters just to write faster, without formal training in cursive.
“There’s no real evidence that it matters to teach cursive, but there’s also the issue that we’re not sure,” said Dinehart. “We may find that there are elements that are being lost when we get rid of the cursive.”
Dinehart says there is research that suggests cursive can affect the content of writing, not just the way it looks on the page.
Rosen is already sold on that concept, telling her class during cursive practice, “It flows, right? And once you learn it your thoughts will begin to flow just like the letters.”
Don't try to tell this veteran teacher that she's wasting her time teaching cursive. Rosen refuses to see the handwriting on the wall, saying her students are gaining a valuable skill that many of today's teenagers do not have.
“My husband’s a high school history teacher, he sees students every day who have never learned cursive, they could be in 11th grade taking American history, he’s showing them documents, the Constitution and others, and they cannot read one word, they say we never learned it, it's shocking," Rosen said.