According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the word “cursive” comes from the Latin “currere,” meaning “to run.” The humble beginnings of this elegant script trace back to the use of the quill, which was easily broken and slow to use. Cursive was created to save time. The dynamic technological world of today is far removed from quills and ink, and computers can accomplish the same task—and more—in a shorter amount of time.
2014 Archdiocese of Omaha Educator of the Year award recipient Mary Holtmeyer enforces cursive writing in her fourth-grade classroom: “I have heard and read about both sides,” she says about the debate over whether or not to include cursive handwriting in a curriculum.
“Until someone can show us that cursive has no value, or is detrimental to our students, I think we will still use it. There is something to be said about the discipline it takes to learn; kids need that.” At St Pius X/St. Leo School, cursive is taught in third grade and enforced throughout elementary school.
Cursive writing appears to be a dying art. The Common Core Standards, which have been adopted by 42 states since their inception in 2010, eliminated handwriting in favor of keyboarding.
According to several studies, including those by UCLA and Princeton Universities, paraphrasing and reprocessing lecture information into one’s own words on paper allows the student to understand concepts more completely than typing the same words on a computer screen.
“Handwriting is tactile,” Holtmeyer re-affirms, “it uses parts of the brain that typing does not, and cursive, specifically, keeps students with dyslexia and dysgraphia from mixing up their letters.”
According to an article from Psychology Today, handwriting is linked to activating the vertical occipital fasciculus section of the brain. These portions of the brain are not activated while typing or texting.
Holtmeyer didn’t want to downplay the importance of technology in teaching. She emphasizes her dedication to helping students become well-rounded and capable people who are ready for the future.
“Academia is leaning toward technology. I’d like to hang on to kids thinking more critically instead of jumping straight to Google. I want them to be ready for their future, and I want them to be independent, critical thinkers that stand on their own two feet.”
A teacher of 25 years, Holtmeyer has evolved her teaching style to reflect the world her students experience. She does a lot with technology in her classroom, including her own use of Smart Boards, document cameras, and various other tools. She involves her students via the use of Twitter (tweeting is one of the “classroom jobs” she assigns) and other projects. “They like [technology],” she says, “but I think it takes away a little bit of the individualism.”
Handwriting is like a fingerprint, each person has their own unique style that is never replicated exactly. “[Cursive] is a very personal thing. We encourage that.”
This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.