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We should not teach students how to write in cursive.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 803 times Debate No: 73543
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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We shouldn't be teaching students cursive in school anymore. Why? it's out-dated, outmoded, and wastes too much time.

Let's face it, nobody writes out long, hand-written documents out anymore for any realistic, serious purposes - at least, not like they did in the past. Yes, cursive has some use today - namely, signatures, but who says we need cursive for signatures? You can sign your name any which way you want - I, for example, choose to print instead of use cursive.

Second, cursive is simply outmoded these days. Go into any office building and you will see exactly 0 people using cursive for a task that could be done only in cursive. I'm not suggesting that we just don't teach kids how to write by hand, just that we really don't need to be teaching them how to do fancy loopy letters over a course of many hours.

Do you know what students could be doing instead of learning cursive? Learning to TYPE! Or doing anything else academic-wise, for that matter. Today, in the modern world, we use typing in our daily lives far more than we use cursive. Seriously, typing is actually a requirement for most professions these days, whereas cursive isn't, so why are we teaching cursive? Even if you don't teach typing, students could be doing any number of other things with those tens of hours devoted to learning cursive. Want to bring reading, math, and science scores up? Cancel cursive and fill that enormous time gap with hours of education in the things students need to succeed in today's world!


Whether or not cursive is "out-dated" and "outmoded" is insignificant. The fact is that learning cursive, regardless as to how often you are going to use it in a regular day, has definite psychological and biological benefits.

Cursive has actually been shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language, and working memory [2]. "Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing." New York Times [2]. Cursive is more of an art form than a simple writing tool, and as such it offers benefits similar to learning any other art form. When one learns cursive you tend to continuously improve[1] as opposed to simply remaining fairly static in your skill level. Think about it, when one learns to write in print your writing style hits a level of proficiency and then levels out; you get good enough to be legible (and in some cases illegible) but never get significantly better. With cursive one continuously improves until one has achieved a high level of legibility.

So, if these benefits are not enough to convince you of the benefits of writing in cursive, here are some more. By learning (and becoming proficient at) cursive you are developing a skill that is becoming more and more uncommon. It is nearly universally accepted that when one writes in cursive the writing appears to be more professional and eloquent. Because of this if a person is to cultivate this skill, they hold something over the average human. This allows a person to make written letters appear much more professional and allow them a higher chance of being hired, or being recognized as being professional. Imagine being employed at a job, and when given an important letter you find to your horror that you cannot read it. Imagine the embarrassment as you have to talk to a superior or co-worker and ask them to translate what the letter says.

Does learning cursive really waste time? When you can see all the benefits listed above it is clear that it does not. The biggest reason for learning cursive is that it actually makes a person SMARTER. When one develops those motor skills, particularly at a young age, one has definite psychological benefits. Another reason is that a person simply appears more professional when they know how to read and write cursive. This increases a person's probability of being hired or kept on, particularly since cursive proficiency is becoming increasingly uncommon.

As I have effectively nullified all of my opponent's harms and shown empirical benefits in writing cursive I urge votes in favor of the negation.

Thank you.

Debate Round No. 1


We're not even halfway though the debate yet and you're already asking for votes when not all arguments have been presented? That's a bit premature, don't you think?

Anyways, I question your arguments and your sources.

You claim that it doesn't matter that cursive is outdated and outmoded when precisely the opposite is true. When I say outdated or outmoded, I mean that something else has already surpassed it or we have no further use for it. For example, that means that cars that need to be hand-cranked to start up are disabled. Sure, there might be some significant benefits to learning how to hand crank one of those cars - it builds up muscle strength, for instance - but that doesn't mean that we'd still want to teach that skill in Driver's Ed. It's not useful anymore (more on that later).

Your New York Times source is questionable. The line you cited about stimulating "brain synapses" and synchronicity between hemisphere has no source, and the credentials of the author (an occupational therapist) are not necessarily sufficient to back up such a claim - I'd rather talk to a neurologist about that. Besides, the same thing would apply to print writing too - remember, I'm not arguing that we stop teaching handwriting, just that we stop teaching cursive. Furthermore, to quote the actual article, "With all this said, does cursive need to be fancy with slants, loops and curls? Absolutely not! The emphasis should be on simplicity and function when teaching children cursive" [1] which takes away practically everything from cursive save for the connected letters, meaning you might as well teach to print.

As for your Psychology Today source, your claim that you "hit a high level of proficiency and then level out" while being able to "continuously improve[] until one has a high level of legibility", or that you "get good enough to be legible but never get significantly better" or "remaining fairly static" isn't even in the source you cited above it. You have no evidence for this claim whatsoever. While I accept this is mere anecdotal evidence, I can say for a fact that I have known many people who have mastered printing to a very high degree, even more legible than cursive.

As for your workplace arguments, I'd like to remind you of how often we actually use cursive in the workplace compared to another skill such as typing. Written letters are less and less common, even short ones - we find ourselves sending anywhere from short memos to long emails, but all electronically - not even a hint of cursive involved. And honestly, cursive isn't going to help you much in getting a job - if you'd need to write for your job, there's a very good chance you're going to be sending in a printed (as in, ink from a mechanical device) copy of your resume and perhaps other materials, but how much is really going to be written out by hand, even in print? For similar reason, you're "important letter that I can't read" argument doesn't work either - whoever is writing the important letter will most likely not have scrawled it out by hand, they'll have typed it. Even if you DO get into such a situation, you don't have to be taught cursive in order to read it (and if for some reason you can't, it's easy to learn in under 60 minutes [2]). Last but not least, there's no way that cursive will increase someone's likelihood of being kept on/hired by any significant amount; employers will care more about your skills, your experience, your productivity, and your ability to work with others far more than they will care about your ability to write loopy letters.

Now, with all those arguments out of the way, let's look at some reasons why print is just fine, and what we could be doing with time spent teaching cursive.

First of all, even handwriting teacher's don't use cursive as much as you'd expect; nowhere near, in fact. At a conference hosted by a cursive textbook publishing conference it was revealed that only 37 percent of cursive/handwriting TEACHERS used cursive! The majority, 55%, used a hybrid of print and cursive, which not only works but is readable by everyone else. Consider how silly it is to teach students cursive when its teachers don't even use it! Also consider that many of the pro-cursive arguments (such as the argument for self-esteem/confidence presented in your Psychology Today) are more along the lines of pro-handwriting, not pro-cursive. Again, I'm not proposing that we stop teaching handwriting, just that we stop teaching cursive.

So,what harm is cursive doing? It's a waste of time! Students are pressured into doing more and more and often are failing to meet standards (low as they sometimes are), so we need students to be doing everything they can at skills that actually benefit them in life. Think of all the things they could be doing instead: math, science, reading, writing, physical activity, typing/programming, or any other academic activity. Come on, is it really worth teaching kids an outdated form of handwriting using dozens of hours of valuable time when they can be learning to read? We need educated students, not students that write connected letters.



First of all, I would like to question the validity of my opponent's example. The benefits of starting a hand-crank car are not very significant, while the benefits of writing in cursive are massive. This brings me to my opponent's other line of attack, which is basically that my evidence isn't valid. To refute this I will give a short description of the significant information in each article that I bring up in order to prove the sheer mass of evidence for cursive handwriting.

Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the university of Washington, stated that children who wrote compositions in cursive generated more words and ideas than children who wrote it in print [1]. Cursive is easier to learn than print [2]. Cursive helps with the treatment of dyslexia [3]. Cursive also helps children to read [4]. Teaching by cursive first improves literacy outcomes, as well as increases the brain's ability to integrate visual and tactile information, and to have a fine level of motor dexterity [5]. Cursive develops motor skills, reinforces learning, and helps students with disabilities [6]. Cursive writing is correlated with higher SAT scores, helps kids with disabilities, increases student self-esteem, and "cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing, typing or keyboarding" [7]. People are viewed as more intelligent when they practice cursive [8]. Conversely, If you teach a child to print in the first two years the child develops writing habits that will become permanent [4].

Using this evidence I refute my opponent's attack against my New York Times source being questionable [7], and that I have no evidence for my my claim that with printing, students tend to hit a high level of proficiency and then level out [4].

This evidence also refutes my opponent's attack on this being inapplicable to the workplace, as people are viewed as more intelligent when they use cursive [8], thus increase their chances of being hired. When a person practices cursive they simply appear more professional than someone who only uses print.

My opponents primary argument is basically that cursive is a waste of time. I have thoroughly refuted this. As shown by my evidence cursive is massively beneficial. Not only is it easier to teach then print [2], but by teaching it a child learns faster, becomes smarter, their handwriting becomes more legible [7], and they actually develop a higher self-esteem. In other words there is everything to gain by teaching cursive, and everything to lose by not doing so.

My opponent stated that when they say that something is outdated or outmoded it means that "we have no further use for it". Based on this definition, cursive cannot be outdated or outmoded. I have empirically proven that simply by learning cursive a child develops further. Is that a trait of uselessness? When a practice has been shown to increase intelligence, self-esteem, motor skills, ideas, the ability to read, reinforced learning, SAT scores, and people's perception of your intelligence I think that we can all agree that that practice should be continued. Because of an overwhelmingly immense quantity of evidence I see no other view than that we should continue to teach cursive, and encourage the regular use of it.

For these reasons I strongly urge votes in favor of the negation.
Thank you.

Debate Round No. 2


First of all, on the hand-cranked car argument, the official definition is "no longer valid or relevant" or "old-fashioned". Faced with (relatively) new technology such as typing, the so-called "art" of cursive does meet that definition quite nicely. There are very few situations in which you'd realistically use cursive (more on that later), just as there are very few situations in which you'd need to hand crank an old car to start it up. Thus, as far as I am concerned, cursive is exactly like hand-cranking a car " it has some possible benefits, but you'll never use it so it's not worth learning.

For the sake of keeping things organized, I'd like to itemize and refute every argument you have presented:

1. You mentioned that those who write in cursive generated more words and ideas than those who write in print. This demonstrates correlation only, and correlation does NOT imply causation. There are a number of plausible explanations for this that do not involve cursive magically stimulating the brain, such as students who wrote in cursive coming from a better school system with more money to put into both their education and their cursive programs. I'd like to see some evidence of a direct causal relationship, and that means accounting for a lot of variables. I'd also like to see the actual mechanism by which cursive is supposed to cause this " it seems more related to the child's education (how they were taught to write, vocab lessons, etc) than it does with the way they write.
2. You claim that cursive is easier to learn than print. The article you cite [1] for this contradicts itself and isn't even entirely accurate. For one, it claims you need perfect lines and circles, which you don't, and that children need such features in order to write print. This is not true " nowhere are you required to write a "perfect" circle. Even If you are, it doesn't matter " children are free to generate their own varieties of print that suit them. The source you cited also goes on to say that handwriting has psychological link to the brain [2], but note that it said handwriting (which includes print and variants), not just cursive. Also, questionable non-academic source [1].
3. You claim that cursive helps you read. One, this is entirely irrelevant " you'll spend more time reading far more clear printed words than you will curly words (there's a reason why standard fonts aren't handwriting-style fonts, you know). Worse, the source you cited [2] doesn't even back up its claim in any scientifically valid way " it even pulls the magical fact of "[print] letters may be all over the page, sometimes written from left to right and from right to left", which is blatantly false (and if you're talking about the orientation of letters, the same is true for cursive too!). Also, another questionable non-academic source " an article on a traditionalist homeschooling website written by a guy who thinks we should get rid of compulsory school attendance [3]? Give me a break!
4. You claim teaching cursive first improve literacy outcomes and increases the brain's ability to integrate visual and tactile information. Not only are there far better ways of doing this that will be more useful later in a child's life, but the source you cite [4] cites a dead link as its source for this information, which by extension renders you without a source for this information.
5. You claim cursive helps with treatment of dyslexia. Fine, teach dyslexics cursive. It shouldn't make a difference on anyone else who is not dyslexic " don't treat those who don't need treatment.
6. You claim cursive is correlated with higher SAT scores. As I mentioned before, correlation in no way implies causation. There could be a huge amount of factors behind that, making it just plain silly to suggest cursive is the true cause of the SAT scores.
7. You claim that cursive writing stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between hemispheres in the brain. The source you cite does cite a source for that claim, but one I would classify as unreliable " Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting, a for-profit company centered around teaching handwriting with an immense interest in promoting cursive [5]. This is not a valid source - it is non-academic in nature and might be biased.
8. You claim people are viewed as more intelligent if they can write cursive, and furthermore that it will help get you hired. This is a pet peeve of mine, because it's entirely irrelevant. Look at it this way " if you stop teaching cursive, people will stop viewing cursive as a sign of intelligence and will stop even considering it when looking to hire you for a job. Why? Because people don't know cursive, yet they are clearly intelligent people. It's essentially a feedback effect " the more you teach cursive, the more people expect it, and vice versa. It's a social norm, not a hard-coded fact of the universe, and social norms can be changed. Besides, at the end of the day, when a company is laying people off, do you honestly expect that they'll care if you know cursive? They'll care more about your real qualifications. Seriously, try asking your boss for a raise with the explanation of "I know cursive" - he might just laugh in your face. If you want to argue cursive in the workplace, don't argue how it makes you look, argue how it makes you more productive or more worthwhile to a company. Argue objective data, not subjective opinions.
9. You claim that if you teach print, a child will develop writing habits that become permanent. Your source [2] (that awful mostly-opinion-piece by the homeschooling guy) doesn't cite any evidence for this whatsoever; he literally just throws it out there and expects you to believe it.
10. You claim the cursive increases self esteem. The source you cite uses a personal, anecdotal example, which is in no way empirical evidence. Furthermore, the author claims that the reason for the self-esteem boost experienced was because of his feeling of accomplishment when he managed to write a perfect capital B [6]. You know what else gives you a feeling of accomplishment? Completing any other task that you put effort into. This self esteem boost is in no way specific to cursive " it's an incredibly broad thing that covers everything from getting a job to winning a level on a Mario game, which means you can't use self esteem for justifying usage of cursive.

As given by the refutations above, you have so far failed to prove any real evidence showing cursive gives you any kind of gain of significance that some other skill/learning task could not give. You have cited extremely questionable sources that are at worst self-contradicting and sometimes just flat-out wrong. The best you have done so far is shown mere correlation, which is insufficient to prove any benefit. I'll be honest, I want to see some cold, hard data, not correlations. I want some data that strongly suggests without a doubt that cursive is beneficial, with experimental evidence to back it up (not just an opinion piece). I want numbers, brain scans, anything. Show me a child's brain doing more when writing in cursive verses print, except through the eyes of an fMRI (tool for seeing brain activity) or some similar device. I don't want opinions or statements, I want cold, hard data.

As you have not shown any evidence that demonstrates a clear CAUSAL relationship between cursive and any noteworthy trait, I ask voters to keep in mind that Con, making the greater claim, has the burden of proof here.



Interval forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by KateGladstone 1 year ago
Highest speed & legibility belong to those who join only the easiest letter-combos & use print-like shapes when letters" printed and cursive shapes disagree. (Research sources on request.)

_Reading_ cursive can be taught in 30-60 minutes w/ a free iPad app: READ CURSIVE.

In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser. Only 37% used cursive; 8% printed. Most (55%) wrote in-between print and cursive. So why exalt cursive?

Kate Gladstone
World Handwriting Contest
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