Should kids learn cursive?

by Honolulu Mother

This Vox article, by Libby Nelson, notes that several state legislatures have passed bills requiring cursive to be taught, and questions the necessity of teaching it.

There’s no reason for kids to learn cursive, but politicians keep trying to make them

I learned what must have been somewhere between the Palmer method and the Zaner-Bloser method (loops at the top of all the capital letters like Palmer, but the capital F looked like the later version). I now write chicken-scratchings when I’m marking something up or writing notes, and passable cursive when I’m sending a note to school. My kids’ teachers took a brief stab at the D’Nealian method somewhere around 2nd grade, and then quickly abandoned it. The kids print, but have all made the effort to at least be able to sign their names in cursive.

Do you think cursive should be taught? Do your own kids use it?

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132 thoughts on “Should kids learn cursive?

  1. Both of my kids primarily print. The college student can write in cursive, but doesn’t much. The high school student has very poor handwriting, and not only cannot write in cursive, he cannot read cursive.

    In general, I think there are benefits to learning cursive. In practice, I had bigger things to work on with both. They’ll get by fine without it, as opposed to other things they struggled with at that age. If I had different kids, I might have put more into it.

    I recently read about a school (college?) that forbade note taking. Teachers provided notes, and students just listened and discussed. Test scores improved. This directly contradicts other studies I’ve read that says people remember better if they’ve written things down. I’m not sure which is accurate.

  2. DH and I both print (DH very neatly – he’s a structural engineer so he has to be able to leave legible comments on building plans – he had a required handwriting class as part of his engineering degree). My handwriting is not particularly legible except when I make an effort.

    DD learned cursive in either 4th or 5th grade and took great pride in the fact that her handwriting was so much nicer than mine. DS had some exposure to cursive in 3rd or 4th grade but none in 5th grade.

    I don’t care one way or the other if the kids learn cursive. We are going to have DS spend time this summer learning how to type.

  3. This directly contradicts other studies I’ve read that says people remember better if they’ve written things down.

    A quick googling has studies of using a laptop vs. hand writing notes. But, I didn’t see any pop up showing notes being provided vs. hand writing (or laptop).

  4. I have seen a change in emphasis on writing in cursive. My older kid was given instruction and had to practice writing in cursive when writing spelling, essays etc. It was an extremely painful process. Both his print and cursive handwriting are not good and hard to read. I am glad now many things have to be typed. My second kid is learning cursive but it is not being emphasized. She usually writes in print. Thinking back to my school days, I am sure the teachers would not have spent the time getting students to learn cursive or write neatly if they didn’t have to grade all the essay style answers on tests and exams.

  5. The Seattle Times had an article on this very topic today – a state senator introduced a bill to require cursive as part of WA state curriculum. But the bill didn’t get a committee vote and no one showed up to testify. The article mentioned a University of Washington study which had the following findings:

    From the newspaper article: “Virginia Berninger, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology, was part of a team that undertook a five-year study of student development. They tested for relationships between types of writing and learning outcomes, as well as if those relationships differed by grade level.

    So which writing form should be taught? “We’re arguing for a hybrid model,” Berninger said.

    But time is at a premium, a shared worry among teachers. How can they teach all three forms of writing: printing, handwriting and typing?

    Luckily, ingraining a writing style doesn’t take a lot of time. The study discovered that working on any form of writing for five to 10 minutes a day, maybe three times a week, is just as effective as dedicating a half-hour to an hour.

    Berninger finds handwritten print connects to better reading skills because much of what is read is in that format. Studies show this is best taught from kindergarten to second grade.

    Cursive specifically helps with spelling and forming sentences because of the way it connects letters together, making students perceive letters as whole-word units, Berninger said. Evidence gleaned from a study of 99 children between third and seventh grades showed it’s best to teach cursive in third and fourth grade.

    Typing correctly, using both hands without looking at them, strengthens communication between the left and right side of the brain, according to the study.

    The transition from middle childhood to early adolescence is when that communication is most efficient, so it needs to be taught as early as fourth and continue through eighth grade.

    “It’s not about teaching handwriting in isolation, or keyboarding,” Berninger insisted. “It’s always about teaching it as a tool for the really important thing: idea expression and communication.”

  6. My kids learned cursive in 3rd grade and 4th grade teachers required you write rather than print. Younger one rarely uses it (6th grade) and sometimes has trouble reading it. Older one uses a bit more, can read most things she come across, but still prints or types more. It seems that it was integrated with art as opposed ot just a penmanship class once the basic letters were learned.

    This article – I’m not sure if it is actually a link or if you will have to cut and paste – follows along the lines of brain development I was once told. IIRC, there are certain things – crawling, swinging and cursive – that teachers and doctors once used as cue’s to development. The cause/effect wasn’t clear.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter

  7. Hah, so this is timely. DS’s reading teacher is very old-school, had exactly the same “harrumph”-ey response when they dropped cursive from the curriculum and mandated that her kids were going to learn it anyway. So her approach has been to have the kids write a one-para summary each night, in cursive. Very simple stuff — read an assigned article and write a response with one topic sentence, three example sentences, and a conclusion.

    This has generated meltdown phase in my formerly easygoing DS. It has gotten so he will take over an hour to do this one assignment — this, from my kid who writes entire stories in his free time. I mean, I know he doesn’t like being told what to write, but come on! So I finally figured out it’s the cursive — when we put him at the computer to write a rough draft, it took him maybe 10 mins to write the essay. Then another hour to copy it over, in absolutely pristine script, erasing repeatedly over errors that were indiscernible to the naked eye to ensure that everything was Exactly Right.

    So I emailed the teacher Thursday — and immediately got a response back saying “oh no! this will not do!” She had apparently told the class that the point of cursive isn’t just to be readable, but also to be fast and efficient, and spending that long to achieve calligraphy-level beauty defeats the purpose. So she spoke to him, and she told us to set a timer for him at 30 minutes, and that if he didn’t get it done in that time, then he’d still get credit for doing the assignment. But she also knew him well enough to understand that once you set his metrics to include “speed,” he will revise his approach to get it done within that 30 mins. :-)

    I love her.

  8. DD is learning cursive in 3rd grade. I’m a fan in general as I’ve read there are cognitive benefits to learning cursive that printing does not have (something about improving hand/eye coordination). I have nice penmanship so it’s possible I hold that particular skill in higher esteem than it should be.

  9. Off topic, and from the (increasingly thickening) files of “Things Risley Has Done Wrong And Advises You Not To Do Too,” if you don’t have CERTIFIED copies of birth certificates for each of your kids, order them now. “Expedited” copies from Texas (where DS was born) take 15 days. Which is not handy if you’re trying to expedite a passport renewal in 2 days.

    I have thought, many times, “Hmmm, I wonder if I should order extra certified copies, just in case.” And I actually did it — for 2 of the kids. Of course it’s one of the others who needs it. Grrrr.

    For that matter, if there are other passports (for other countries) you could get for your kids, do it now, while they’re in your house and the docs are all handy. Once they’re away and you need copies of docs now in their possession, it’s a royal pain. Check that you have their SSN cards and order replacements. Ditto for updated immunization records–make sure those are complete, signed, dated, etc. I have learned that when you need these things, you need them NOW.

    This concludes today’s installment of “Risley Is An Idiot.”

  10. Ack, Ris, feel for you. We had similar panic from that “get your passports now” article someone posted a week or so ago – but we’ve got until April 15, so I just had to fork over an extra $40 for expedited processing.

  11. I have good penmanship too.
    One side of my family is artistic so, my cousins practiced a little and were able to address their own wedding invitations without using a calligrapher.
    I used Handwriting without tears for DS. It was suggested on the Totebag, I think. There were still tears on his part but the book prevdnted me from meltdown, glad for it.

  12. Cursive was not taught/emphasized for either DS, to my chagrin. Of all the useless things that they are forces to learn, I am sad that they dropped something so useful. DS2 cannot sign his own name in cursive, and he is in 7th grade. He gets the first letter of his first name wrong. So painful to see.

    I bought a cursive workbook, but have been too lazy to work on this with him. I will start this evening.

  13. One teacher indicated she would teach cursive and then didn’t, I’m guessing due to timing constraints. This year the kids are learning typing, but my kid who sees an OT is a one-finger hunt and peck typist. The OT and I are working on this. My other guy seems more interested in cursive and can write his first name in cursive, but has trouble reading it.

    This is one (of many) things I hope/try to tackle at home since it doesn’t look like the school will teach it. I am glad they are teaching typing. I remember having to teach myself in college.

    Overall feedback from teachers is that it would be nice to have the time to teach cursive, but they don’t have the time.

  14. Louise – the preschool my DS and youngest DD are going to in the fall uses Handwriting without Tears so I’m glad to hear the good review. I had never heard of it before, but all of the preschools around us seem to use it.

    I need to order my two year old’s birth certificate – always forget to do that. I don’t think we got my son’s until I had to have it to register him for Pre-K.

  15. I mostly print or type and have done so as soon as I could stop writing cursive (6rth grade?). As a lefty I hated cursive. It is not faster. DH mostly prints (super neatly) as well. We both sign our names in cursive. It was interesting learning to sign my married name in cursive in my 30s. Its now turned into the first few letters followed by a dash.

  16. To follow up on Risley’s advice, I’ve found that passport cards are great identification for kids who are too young to have driver’s licenses (or are too uninterested to take the d*mned class even though they are 16…) You can order them in addition to your passport book.

  17. Atlanta – Handwriting without Tears is the program my kid’s OT recommended. She just started using it with him (third grade) so I don’t yet have an opinion on it.

  18. Rhett and Houston, this weekend you were both present in spirit in our household. I regret that we had to have the “you put in C effort, you live a C lifestyle” talk with our youngest, but I was glad to have a framework for the discussion.

    However, I was happy to have the “you put in A effort, you live an A lifestyle” with the other one. It is a shame the talks happened on the same weekend, because I don’t like to set them up to compare themselves to the other, but it was also helpful for them to have the contrast for a few days.

  19. My handwriting is atrocious; I still remember the horrors of the B- in 5th grade penmanship. I have developed my own style that is partially-cursive, partially-print — I basically use whichever is the fastest for a given letter. I figure since no one else can read my writing anyway, why bother?

    My typing is similar — I am wicked fast, but people who know the actual “proper” touch-typing method cringe to watch me, because I am self-taught and apparently use all the wrong fingers and bang the keyboard too hard. My biggest savior has been the invention of the “delete” key — I always tested out as a slow typist at my Kelly Girl job (@30-35 wpm), because you took a big hit for any mistakes, so I had to slow way down to avoid the oops. Which made sense, when the only fix was white-out. But now that you just need to hit another key, I can operate much closer to full speed ahead.

  20. Ris…is its ” a passport renewal in 2 days.” do you actually need the birth cert if you have the old passport(s)?

  21. In that OMG, I don’t have a ____ document. Make sure you have all yours too – birth certificate, marriage and/or divorce papers, etc. When my dad died, we had to have the marriage certificate, I think for social security. Couldn’t find the original anywhere – had to send off to the county courthouse – took 2 weeks.

  22. @ Rhett – correct. He doesn’t think it’s worth putting in the effort. Too boring and he doesn’t love his teacher this year, so his natural pleaser tendencies aren’t doing the trick. I hope seeing the differences between his privileges and his brother’s will help.

  23. I am meh on the cursive topic…it’s not a skill required by employers (well, the vast vast vast majority of employers). If you can write in cursive, great. If not, bigger fish to fry.

    I have the combo cursive/print font, whatever works to communicate, right?

    And mostly it’s done from a keyboard anyway.

  24. All natural forms of my hand writing are illegible. I got D’s in penmanship. My left handed eldest if he were in elementary school today would have an IEP and be excused from handwriting and allowed to use computers for everything. But I have figured out how to block print (Large and small caps) very legibly on checks and tax forms and envelopes and foreign visa applications and the occasional hand “written” note. I even bought a beautiful properly weighted and shaped ball point pen for both aesthetic reasons and ease of use without cramping.

    Proper cursive was a class/education marker in my mother’s day, but it was already fading in importance in the US by the 1960s. I can recall in the 70s and perhaps later in France that job applications had to be “manuscrite”, not typed, to make sure that the applicant had mastered the perfect uniform French penmanship. (French education was so rigid and centralized that the ideal was that at 10am on the second Thursday in March every child in a particular elementary grade was learning the exact same lesson.)

    I would rather require Latin than cursive, but everyone has his/her own particular ideas as to what is necessary to be a complete educated human.

  25. I have enjoyed seeing our oldest do cursive, because he’s really taken pride in it and worked hard at it. Having to do homework in cursive for several years seemed to engage him on another level. His cursive is beautiful, unlike his print, which is atrocious. But if they didn’t teach it would be fine. Our youngest hasn’t been learning it long enough to master it.

  26. It has always bothered me that in high school it seemed that the typing teacher was held in the least esteem by her coworkers. At the top you had the English teachers, then the math teachers, science teachers… then gym teachers and finally the typing teacher. This despite the fact that I now know that it was by far, by several orders of magnitude, the most valuable class I’ve ever taken in my life.

  27. Rhett – It’s a holdover from the idea that the English and Math teachers were preparing some students for college, and the typing teacher was preparing some girls for secretary training.

    I signed up for “Keyboarding” for a freshman elective, but then taught myself with Mavis Beacon for a week during the interim summer. The keyboarding class, which was still using typewriters, was useless torture at that point.

  28. My mother made me take a typing class in high school and I am grateful for it. I am very fast (although that sometimes means that DH asks me to type something for him because he is an entirely self taught hunter and pecker).

  29. I learned cursive somewhere in the 2nd to 4th grades. I think it’s valuable to learn with legible printing and typing – multiple forms of communication required for multiple things. While printing and typing will get you by for 98% of life, that hand written note in neat cursive can be a deal maker. It’s the extra thought that sometimes wins.

    Someone on this blog also said that without learning to read cursive, you can read the original, founding documents of this country at the National Archives. Don’t remember who said it, but the sentiment stuck with me. While I can read transcripts online, seeing/reading the originals makes it real. And also makes me realize how labor-intensive handwriting is – no delete key!

  30. Oh Mavis Beacon and Typer Shark. How I don’t miss you, but you were probably the two most important things in my life (said as she’s typing in home position without needing to look at the keyboard)…

  31. It looks like I fit in well as a left-handed girl with poor handwriting. My opposition to typing was that it was a choice between that and AP computer. One counselor thought nearly all females should have adequate secretarial skills, but I wanted to take AP computer without any of the prereqs. Another counselor who knew me approved it.

    DS1 is learning some cursive in third grade. Mr WCE couldn’t read my notes on “Keepers” last night because he can’t read cursive anymore. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about it. The topic makes me think about how the particularities of how one learns language and what language one learns affect how one thinks. It’s certainly possible that cursive helps people think of words vs. strings of letters and that typing improves hemispheric connection, but probably lots of other things do that too. I want my kids to be adequate at getting their thoughts into standard form (some sort of handwriting and typing are necessary) without having that process require focus. DS1 has sloppy handwriting but writing itself is no longer a challenge. The twins are challenged by writing.

    Does anyone have experience with a hieroglyphic alphabet (Japanese, Korean, Chinese come to mind, especially classical Chinese) as a first language? Reading issues such as dyslexia are very different (maybe unknown?) in those languages. Similarly, speakers of tonal languages (Vietnamese, maybe Mandarin), have much better pitch, and a higher percentage of the population (say, 20% vs 3%) has perfect pitch.

  32. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)

    More recently, it has also been documented that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia.
    This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive poses even more difficulties than print-writing. (Contrary to myth, reversals in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”)
    — According to comparative studies of handwriting speed and legibility in different forms of writing, the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too.

    Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print.

    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive” — appstore.com/readcursive
    Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach this vital skill quickly — for free — instead of leaving it to depend upon the difficult and time-consuming process of learning to write in cursive (which will cost millions to mandate)?

    We don’t require our children to learn to make their own pencils (or build their own printing presses) before we teach them how to read and write. Why require them to write cursive before we teach them how to read it? Why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?
    Just as each and every child deserves to be able to read all kinds of everyday handwriting (including cursive), each and every one of our children — dyslexic or not — deserves to learn the most effective and powerful strategies for high-speed high-legibility handwriting performance.
    Teaching material for practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive which is venerated by too many North American educators. Some examples, in several cases with student work also shown: http://www.BFHhandwriting.com, http://www.handwritingsuccess.com, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/09/08/opinion/OPED-WRITING.1.pdf, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/hwlesson.html, http://www.freehandwriting.net/educational.html )

    Even in the USA and Canada, educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
    (If you would like to take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, and not restricted to teachers — visit http://www.poll.fm/4zac4 for the One-Question Handwriting Survey, created by this author. As with the Zaner-Bloser teacher survey, so far the results show very few purely cursive handwriters — and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world — 75% of the response totals, so far — consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.)
    When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

    Believe it or not, some of the adults who themselves write in an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me that they are teachers who still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or who still teach their students that all adults habitually and normally write in cursive and always will. (Given the facts on our handwriting today, this is a little like teaching kids that our current president is Richard Nixon.)

    What, I wonder, are the educational and psychological effects of teaching, or trying to teach, something that the students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?
    Cursive’s cheerleaders (with whom I’ve had some stormy debates) sometimes allege that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote that form of handwriting. The cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, that it instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or that it confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of the human race. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident as soon as others examined the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim provides no source (and no source is provided on request)

    or, almost as often,

    /2/ when sources are cited and can be checked (by finding and reading the cited document), the sources provided turn out to include and/or to reference materials which are misquoted or incorrectly represented by the person(s) offering these as support for cursive,

    or, even more often,

    /3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

    Cursive devotees’ eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are commonly made — under oath — in testimony before school districts, state legislatures, and other bodies voting on educational measures. The proposals for cursive are, without exception so far, introduced by legislators or other spokespersons whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — although investigative reporting of the questionable testimony does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when the discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill? (Documentation on request: I am willing to be interviewed by anyone who is interested in bringing this serious issue inescapably before the public’s eyes and ears.)
    By now, you’re probably wondering: “What about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive?” Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
    Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

    SOURCES:

    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
    Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /3/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    Ongoing handwriting poll: http://poll.fm/4zac4

    The research most often misrepresented by devotees of cursive (“Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Dr. Karin Harman-James at Indiana University):
    https://www.hw21summit.com/research-harman-james

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —

    TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —

    HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
    handwritingrepair@gmail.com

  33. “Teachers provided notes, and students just listened and discussed. Test scores improved. This directly contradicts other studies I’ve read that says people remember better if they’ve written things down. I’m not sure which is accurate.”

    I don’t think it’s an either-or situation.

    I believe that writing things down helps remember those things. The problem is the other things that you miss while you are writing those things down.

    I had a few profs who understood this, and when making a point considered very important, would pause to give us time to write that down.

  34. I flunked cursive in 4th grade! They made me stay after school for “remedial handwriting”. When we moved to Germany, though, my handwriting really improved because we had to use fountain pens. I don’t see how people can learn good handwriting when forced to use icky mucky grimy pencils. The German handwriting model is really different too – more efficient, more up and down, fewer silly flourishes.

    I learned to do calligraphy in high school and can still turn out a decent Chancery cursive. But for everyday, I use a print-cursive hybrid or type.

    I actually wish the schools would deemphasize cursive. Our elementary school forces the kids to write their compositions in cursive. I think that leads to very poor writing habits, which I am still trying to knock out of my older kids. Writing compositions in cursive encourages a “write from the top until you are done” mentality. That isn’t how good writing is produced! The kids need to learn to write/revise/write/revise – frequent revisions – and also to approach the composition in a more organic way, where you work from an outline and could be filling in text in any part of the draft at a given moment. Writing in cursive on paper, a torturous process for many kids, discourages that style of writing.

  35. ““Teachers provided notes, and students just listened and discussed. Test scores improved. This directly contradicts other studies I’ve read that says people remember better if they’ve written things down. I’m not sure which is accurate.”

    I don’t think it’s an either-or situation. ”

    In nuke power school, they developed the system of handing out Xeroxed copies of structured notes with blanks to be filled in. I think the idea is that you get the best of both worlds. Given the speed at which the curriculum progressed–less Socratic and more like drinking from a fire hose–it was a necessity.

  36. Chinese is not actually completely a hieroglyph language. In fact, a very large part of it is phonetic, in a weird way. Most characters are made up of several parts. The radical indicates something about the meaning, like a clue. There is another part that gives a clue to the pronunciation. Characters are listed in dictionaries by the radical.

    My daughter’s given Chinese name uses a character which is very complex and obscure. Chinese people will look at the character and know exactly how to pronounce it, from the component that shows the pronunciation. But they will shrug hopelessly when asked the meaning.

    All of this is based on Mandarin, of course. I have always wondered how Japanes people manage to learn the characters. Actually, I have been told that the average Japanese person can’t really read that many characters, certainly not enough to be considered “educated” in China. The Japanese use a lot of their own syllable based characters in their writing.

  37. Did y’all notice at yesterday’s Super Bowl half time that Coldplay was written in Hindi on the equipment ? I didn’t really get their whole theme.

  38. Fred – yeah, if the one you’re replacing was acquired when the kid was under 16, then a “renewal” is basically the same as a new application. After this, it’ll be easier for him to renew. I warned DH today that our youngest, 16 next Aug, should not renew hers until her birthday if she can get away with it. Soooo much easier if they have an “adult” passport.

    As luck would have it, DS’s his destination will allow him in with an almost-expired passport, and the Dept of State will let him out of the country and back in again with same. My SIL recently got turned away at the airport, trying to fly to the UK w/ a passport that was up for renewal w/in 6 mos of her departure date. DS is lucky his destination isn’t on a huge watch list or whatever.

  39. Yeah, I think they could have made the whole halftime with just Beyonce and Bruno Mars. Then again, I really can’t stand Coldplay (like emo U2 tribute band, with none of the righteous passion or drive). Sorry.

  40. “yeah, if the one you’re replacing was acquired when the kid was under 16, then a “renewal” is basically the same as a new application” — yeah, that was my mistake — I assumed we’d just need new pics and the old passport. Not.

  41. Last year I renewed my 17 yo’s passport using only the old passport. No birth certificate required. But this was not expedited,and we both had to show up in person to the post office. It’s good for 10 years.

    In over 40 years I never had to show my SS card, and I never had one in my possession. But my kids have had to show theirs for different reasons — driver’s license and starting a job. I need to organize and order dupes of all these documents.

  42. And I was surprised that a birth certificate was required for my D to open a bank account.

  43. On birth certificates, for years I had one issued by the hospital (pink, with my footprints – so cute), thinking it was an official certificate. Nope. Had to request one from a state department, which took some time.
    Interesting to see what information was included on it. Mine include my father’s occupation; my kids’ did not include any parental occupations.

  44. Also with passports, if you are planning a trip, verify well ahead of time if you will need passports or not. DW’s sister was taking their kids to the Caymans to meed up with her DH on a business trip, and she saw that you don’t need a passport to go to the Caymans, so she didn’t worry about the kids not having them. Two days before they were leaving, she found out that while that is true, you still need a passport to get back into the U.S. So she had to schlep a 7 and 4 year old on a three-hour drive (each way) to the nearest place to get super expedited passports.

  45. I got birth certificates for the younger 2 last year when I had to register #2 child for kindergarten. I don’t have any extras for #1 – we used the one we had to register her a few years ago. No passports yet, and no cursive either.

    My lowest grade ever was in handwriting in 5th grade. I am quick, but messy. In college and law school I re-taught myself how to print very legibly and very small, so I could take notes and fit more on one page. My signature now is first initial, scribble, middle initials (2), last initials and scribble. My name is 30 letters long counting the middle names so it would take a while to write it all out. ;)

  46. My district still teaches cursive writing in third and fourth grades with the Handwriting without Tears program. They’re thinking about doing away with teaching it because the teachers want more time during the day for ELA and math due to the common core. Most of the time with DD was spent in notebooks at night. I was surprised that after two years of classroom and homework for cursive writing, the middle school teachers do not require it on any document. It is all printing or typing.
    I think they learned typing in a computer class.

    I remember so many of my own classrooms had the cursive letters on top of the blackboards (!!) with the solid and dotted white lines to give you a constant reminder about how to form the letters.

  47. Now that Lauren mentions it, till we learnt cursive, we had special ruled notebooks with lines to show you how tall to make your capital and small letters. Those notebooks help the kids a good bit. Once we learned cursive we transitioned to regular lined paper and fountain pens instead of pencils (by fifth grade). No ball point pens were allowed. I was surprised that my kids didn’t have that type of notebook to help with writing.

  48. “Similarly, speakers of tonal languages (Vietnamese, maybe Mandarin), have much better pitch, and a higher percentage of the population (say, 20% vs 3%) has perfect pitch.”

    Does that include Korean? Koreans seem to be disproportionately represented in the better local orchestras.

  49. “My lowest grade ever was in handwriting in 5th grade.”

    Me too. In elementary school I consistently got low grades for “writes legibly.”

  50. Cursive writing is my pet peeve. My son spent four years of primary school learning cursive and I certainly cannot read his writing. When I get notes, or worse have to read somebody’s scrawls in cursive, I think it is the height of arrogance. If you want me to read something, please type or neatly print it. Preferably in a size I can read.

    On the other hand, I take notes in cursive– spelling be damned and using abbreviations generally not known to man. My pen flies all over the damn place as I speed through flipping pages. I write incredibly large so that should I ever re-read my notes, I can decipher them. But only me! I would never– really never– permit anybody else to read my cursive, much less expect that they do so.

    Few people can write cursive neatly, and certainly not any man who was not a Founding Father doing government work. I hate it.

  51. Our kids’ school uses Handwriting Without Tears. I believe they start cursive in 3rd grade, but I’m not sure how much they focus on it. I think it’s useful, but not the most urgent thing to learn.

    My DH has laughed at his firm, however, that younger associates can’t read handwritten notes in cursive. While many things are shared digitally, some hard copy is still exchanged, and he jokes that it’s like they have some sort of secret code that the newer employees can’t understand. I’d prefer my kids to be comfortable enough with cursive to be able to decipher it. (Or attempt to decipher it, in the case of the messy examples.)

  52. Our elementary school teachers used to begin the handwriting classes with drills — “Round round ready write! 12345…” I can still hear it. Hated it then, and once we were free I developed a combination print/cursive system that took me through college, law school, and work without a hitch. Our kids didn’t spend much, if any, time on cursive in school, and their handwriting is now so similar that they could easily forge one another’s signatures. Don’t know how that happened.

    DH puts all of his lecture notes online, but the students still write furiously during class. Lots of equations and such makes laptops not the best choice there. DS takes notes on paper in most of his college classes too, and writes his stories out longhand, but most everything else is on a screen. I don’t think cursive, per se, is as important as the ability to write quickly, accurately, and legibly. My first assignment at the law firm involved $10 million in proposed tax adjustments, and the revenue agent submitted a HANDWRITTEN notice in which more than a few words were illegible. Very difficult to file a responsive appeal when you can’t read all of the text of what you are appealing. I think of that experience every time someone mentions their fear of being audited. Nope, doesn’t worry me. If the IRS could not get its act together when real money was involved, the chance of an ordinary person getting nailed for making a wild guess on the value of the clothing she donated to charity, or for claiming a recent college graduate as a dependent, is nil.

  53. “I write incredibly large so that should I ever re-read my notes, I can decipher them.”

    This is exactly what I do. Also, because my arms continue to shorten.

    “he jokes that it’s like they have some sort of secret code that the newer employees can’t understand.”

    Who knew that my HS journalism class would be useful for teaching me editing marks? Speaking of lost arts, now that it’s all done electronically. . . .

  54. My great-grandfather owned a bar in Philadelphia. In my grandmother’s effects, we found a lot of the receipts for purchases. I really admire the beautiful penmanship of the time, and can only imagine how many hours of drilling that required, and how poorly my son would have fared.

  55. Does your kids’ schools explicitly teach grammar (diagramming sentences, et al)? I keep hearing that my kids’ teachers sneak it in as its not part of the curriculum.

  56. “Writing compositions in cursive encourages a “write from the top until you are done” mentality. That isn’t how good writing is produced! The kids need to learn to write/revise/write/revise – frequent revisions – and also to approach the composition in a more organic way, where you work from an outline and could be filling in text in any part of the draft at a given moment. Writing in cursive on paper, a torturous process for many kids, discourages that style of writing.”

    Not necessarily.

    I was taught to create outlines first. This sometimes resulted in handing in very awkwardly spaced test answers to essay questions, in which I’d blocked out spaces for points which I ended up making concisely, leaving large blank spaces between points.

  57. “Does your kids’ schools explicitly teach grammar (diagramming sentences, et al)?”

    Yes. But I think their understanding of grammar and sentence structure really benefited from taking Latin.

  58. ATM – yes kids school teaches English grammar. Older kid is taking Latin and as Finn mentioned that should be beneficial as well.

  59. No diagramming here. None in my CA school when I was a child, either. My DH had lots of diagramming in elementary, and swears that our kids will learn. That makes that his job, if he so desires.

    Laura– I had a quasi-higher-up edit something a few months ago. This person read it, and then called me on the phone and gave me a verbal, stream-of-consciousness sort of edit list, for an hour and twenty minutes. I wanted to die. Some of it was useful, but most of it could have been communicated via track changes in about 1/4 of the time.

  60. ATM, it looks like there are now more, possibly better, workbooks on diagramming sentences than when I bought this one a few years ago for future use, but here’s one I have. My children will be exposed to sentence diagramming. :) My kids’ school hasn’t taught much grammar so far but my kids enjoyed doing Star Wars Mad Libs on the drive to southern California. “Poop” can be a noun or a verb, and “poopy” is the adjective form.
    I studied Spanish and German briefly, and I agree with the benefits of a foreign language for understanding grammar. Anyone want to offer an opinion on why Latin is a better choice than Spanish/French/German?

    http://www.amazon.com/Grammar-Diagramming-Sentences-Advanced-Straight/dp/093199375X/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1454963488&sr=8-6&keywords=diagramming+sentences

  61. Thanks WCE. I’m familiar with the derivations of “poop”. Have you learned those of “swag”? “Swagalicious” is an adjective as is “swag”. Swag is also a noun and a verb . Not as sure about “derpy”. So far I think its only an adjective.

    My kids were really into Mad Libs for awhile.

  62. ATM, it looks like there are now more, possibly better, workbooks on diagramming sentences than when I bought this one a few years ago for future use

    Another post nomination for the totebag hall of fame.

  63. @WCE – if one is indifferent to what foreign language one learns (like my kid is) I heard from my school days that Latin and Sanskrit are the mother languages for the European and Indian languagues so if nothing else you could safely pick those.

  64. The kids need to learn to write/revise/write/revise – frequent revisions – and also to approach the composition in a more organic way, where you work from an outline and could be filling in text in any part of the draft at a given moment.

    I completely agree that kids need to learn how to edit and revise. However, many people (such as myself) write in a very linear fashion, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Yes, I have somewhat of an outline I use, but I go section by section in order. It completely throws me off if I try to work on sections out of order.

  65. “Anyone want to offer an opinion on why Latin is a better choice than Spanish/French/German?”

    I’m not sure that it is. How the languages are taught is probably at least as important as which language.

    While my kids have gotten better at English as a result of taking Latin, DS thinks he would’ve been better served taking a different language.

    His 6th grade teacher made a pitch to parents for Latin, and among his points was that Latin would help the kids with their SAT CR and Writing sections. After the fact, DS doesn’t think it helped all that much, and from what I’ve read, it will help even less with the new SAT.

    DS thinks that other languages would’ve also looked at English constructs as counterpoint to those languages, but would be more useful. If he had to do it again, he would probably take Mandarin, because of the number of people who speak it, but in certain parts of the US, e.g., PTM country, Spanish might be more practical.

  66. Finn, my local acquaintance who is a professor of classical history thinks Spanish is generally a better choice than Latin. Spanish is probably as helpful as Latin on the SAT, and you know I think there are limited benefits to optimizing one’s SAT score anyway.

    Given a choice, I would choose Spanish for my kids over Latin, because Spanish is widely used and lets you communicate with a wide variety of people who prefer Spanish or speak only Spanish, both within and outside the US.

  67. Latin is more technically difficult than Spanish because of the cases of nouns (among other things). Also, Latin has more commonly used tenses. Most nouns have 10 forms (compared to two in English, plural and singular). One thing that I think is neat about Latin is that no time is spent on conversation and pronunciation – it allows you to move through the language much faster than Spanish. At the end of one year of high school Latin, we were reading interesting, original (and important) Latin texts. Not so true at the end of first year Spanish.

    I went from Latin 1 to Spanish 2 without any difficulty. I spent a week in Spanish 1 and realized it was a waste of my time. This may speak to the level of instruction at my high school, or my ability with language.

  68. I think learning any language is a great way to learn grammar. At various points in my life, I have learned German, French, and Japanese. All were helpful

  69. Finn said “I was taught to create outlines first. This sometimes resulted in handing in very awkwardly spaced test answers to essay questions, in which I’d blocked out spaces for points which I ended up making concisely, leaving large blank spaces between points.”

    I think this exactly shows my point – it is a PITA to try to work from outline when using handwriting on paper. Yes, it can be done, but painfully

  70. Even for people who like to write linearly, using handwriting discourages frequent revisions. I am friendly with the director of our freshman writing center, and she says it is a huge battle to get students to do enough revisions because they aren’t used to thinking that way. I have been working a lot with my older 2 kids on frequent revisions, but it is a battle for them too. They got so used to the idea in elementary school of carefully writing out a complete paper from beginning to end on paper, and perhaps copying it over ONCE.

    In the old days, a lot of good writers used to use Postits or index cards to arrange and rearrange the points in a paper. We can do this easily now – it seems to me they should teach writing that way from the get go. I am not a huge fan of computers in elementary schools – but the one big use case that makes sense is in ELA when writing papers.

  71. My kids get a lot of grammar in school but no diagramming. I only ever saw it once when I was in school. I always thought diagramming was one of those quaint things that Laura and Mary did in their one room school house.

  72. Do you think that in the future very old documents will be understood if no one reads/writes cursive anymore? If you had no exposure to cursive could you still read the Declaration of Independence? I have no idea what the answer is – I will try to look at a photo of it and imagine I don’t know cursive.

  73. I can barely read old documents and letters frinm the colonial period as it is! Have you ever noticed how bad the spelling was?

  74. “Do you think that in the future very old documents will be understood if no one reads/writes cursive anymore?”

    Cursive OCR (optical character recognition) would facilitate conversion to a font people could read.

  75. Do you think that in the future very old documents will be understood if no one reads/writes cursive anymore?

    If we have people who can still read this:

    I don’t think cursive will be a problem.

  76. “Even for people who like to write linearly, using handwriting discourages frequent revisions.”

    So did typing.

    “In the old days, a lot of good writers used to use Postits or index cards to arrange and rearrange the points in a paper. We can do this easily now”

    Do you know a program that facilitates this?

    Word processing allows me to write much the way I wrote before, although now I don’t have to guess as to how much space I’ll need for each point.

    However, most of the writing I do now is linear, as in what I post here.

  77. Ris – still on the passport only because I have a 16yo and we are renewing his still-valid passport that he got when he was 12 right now. The Town hall and the State dept website both say just to bring in his passport and he’ll be good to go. The town hall asked if he has his license or permit that he bring those…but no birth cert (which I have the original of anyway). It’s just interesting / funny / maddening to hear of different rules / standards when they should all be the same!

  78. Finn said “So did typing.”

    Oh, I totally agree. It was really hard to revise on a typewriter. I was fortunate that they started disappearing by the time I was in college. I used my first word processing program on an IBM mainframe back in the day, and never looked back.

    I think word processing software in general facilitates writing in a more global way, because it is so easy to cut/paste huge blocks of text, or to switch to outline view, or to work on your conclusion first, whatever works for you.

    However, there are programs out there that provide even more support. A lot of people I know who have to write extensively use a program called Scrivener.
    https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

  79. Do you think that in the future very old documents will be understood if no one reads/writes cursive anymore?

    People who specialize in the period will learn how to read them. Just like there are people who can read this

    and all the other laws from that period, or this

    even though we find it hard to pick out the words and some of the letters run together strangely.

  80. Fred – yes, I just renewed DD’s a few weeks ago. She got it before 16 and needed only her license and her old passport. But, I called the post office where DS would have to go (different state) and the guy told me, “The State is now telling us we need a long form birth certificate.” So, it must be state by state, and since you’re likely applying at your PO, I’d just call them and ask.

    I’m running interference on this for DS because the poor kid has a raging case of mono and can barely get out of bed, let alone make all of these kinds of calls. His situation is bad enough that the doc told him not to go to class for at least 3 weeks–not that the kid feels well enough to go to the caf, let alone to a 3-hour chem lab or an hour-long engineering lecture.

    At the advice of his father and an uncle, he has decided to take a medical leave for the semester, and go back next fall. There’s just no way he could make a good showing in that field of study after losing the first several weeks or more to mono. He’s pretty crushed–this is not how he thought his first year would go. He is finally a real “brother” rather than a pledge, and was having the time of his life. (Yes, this is surely a contributing factor to his getting mono, but it’s a tough break all the same).

    As luck would have it, his grandmother just arrived yesterday on a tropical island, where she has rented a house for 3 months, and her sons (one of whom is DS’s father) and other grandchildren were feeling a little uneasy about her being there alone. She’ll have some visitors, but they had all been hoping she could take someone along who’d stay the entire time. If only they knew someone responsible, who cares about her, and who suddenly has a free few months, along with the desire (and energy) to do nothing more than drink fruit juice and read on the beach with an 81-year-old for 3 months. So …

    It turns out that his Mono Recovery country and this one are fine if he goes from next week till late April, since his passport doesn’t expire until June. By the time he gets back, his “expedited” birth certificate will have made its month-long trip here from TX, and he can start the whole passport renewal process again.

  81. Having been a medievalist in my early life, I learned to read calligraphy and the associated abbreviations. It was often easier to read the microfilm straight – not in a reader, but with a jeweler’s glass to the eye. Of course, those were my eyes in my early 20s….

  82. I took an evening community college course in Latin and I agree with Ada’s comments from my brief exposure. I think it depends on if you think the reason for your language study is to communicate with other people or because language study is intrinsically interesting. I was bored stiff in high school Spanish (and eventually dropped out) but I was the lab partner my AP chemistry teacher switched our Mexican exchange student to, because the people in advanced Spanish were less comfortable with conversation using occasionally-atrocious grammar. My motto regarding grammar with her was, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

    Has anyone studied ancient Hebrew vs. modern Hebrew?

  83. I hoep he feels better soon. He is the third college student that I know that got mono during their freshman or soph years in college. It can become very serious if the person doesn’t get rest, so it sounds like you all made the right decision instead of toughing it out.

    I am surprised about the passport thing because I always thought it was a federal thing. I didn’t realize that individual states were involved, or could set different requirements. The US Post office does it in NY, or the fast track involves a different federal office.

  84. Our youngest learned cursive in art class in 3rd grade. For the older guys, it was taught in second grade but had been dropped by the time #3 was in school. None of them use it regularly except as a signature. I encouraged them to master it if only because it won’t be long before using cursive is like writing in code. I didn’t get anywhere with that. I still think it is worthwhile in order to read note from Grandma. Or me, for that matter; I pretty much always write in cursive. It never occurs to me someone might not be able to read it.

    I was told once that writing the SAT essay in cursive improved one’s score. But I’ve discounted that theory because I’ve never seen it embraced here.

    I hate trying to decipher old deed descriptions written in cursive in the 20’s.

  85. I know prayer book Hebrew, and that is what the kids studying for a bar/bat mitzvah are learning. They are not learning how to have a conversation, such as where is the bathroom? It would be as if you only learned the English that is in the Bible. They learn a lot of words and the Hebrew alphabet, but they can’t have a conversation in Hebrew. There are so many words in the Torah and prayer books, so it takes YEARS to even begin to understand the ancient Hebrew.

    My former neighbor is from Israel and she speaks fluent Hebrew, but she can’t just pick up the Torah and read it.

  86. Lauren – that’s what DH was just saying when I told him about the requirement for DS’s birth certificate. Why did I *not* need that for DD in one state, yet DS needs it in another? Very odd. Maybe the folks here let us get away with something? No idea.

    Thanks for your well wishes for DS. He appears to come from a DNA strand that doesn’t do mono lightly. I almost lost a year of college because of it, as did my brother, and his father had to repeat a year of high school because of a particularly bad case.

  87. They are not learning how to have a conversation, such as where is the bathroom? It would be as if you only learned the English that is in the Bible.

    Like when I learned Old Icelandic, but I could only have said things like, “So-and-so comes in his black cloak of death” or “This is a wolf-age, an axe-age” maybe in response to “How are things?”

  88. The other thing that about ancient Hebrew is that I generally have no idea of what i am saying or singing. I have everything memorized from singing the same prayers or songs. I don’t go on a regular basis, but we go through phases where we go to Saturday services a lot. I have no idea what it really means unless it a prayer for mourning, healing or a specific holiday.

  89. Risley – that sounds like a great solution to both problems, although not what your son was hoping for in his second semester of college.

  90. As a handwriting teacher, I’ve looked into the “higher SAT scores from cursive” claim, because of course I had to know whether it was accurate. My investigations included contacting the SAT/College Board’s Director of Public Relations (Ms. Katherine Levin).
    As far as she, her researchers, I, and anyone else looking into the matter can figure out, the claim is about as factually grounded as Santa Claus, and it got started like this:

    In 2013, an Indiana state senator named Jean Leising was making her second annual attempt (she has made three more since then) to get her state legislature to require cursive in all public and private schools, including home schools. (Her bill annually is approved by the state senate — though by a smaller and smaller margin each year — and annually fails to get the approval of the state house — in fact, lately it doesn’t even get _into_ the state house after passing the state senate: for a reason that will soon become evident).
    To try getting her bill passed in 2014, Leising told the media (and, under oath, also told her fellow legislators) that research done by “the SAT people” (her phrase) had shown that SAT examinees who used cursive on the test’s essay section got 15% higher scores. As in the four other years when Leising has made any claim about handwriting research showing a superiority for cursive, a check of sources (in this case, inquiries to the SAT/College Board administrators, made by me and [at my suggestion] also by some of Leising’s fellow legislators) swiftly revealed that Leising’s claim diverged significantly from the facts.
    The SAT score gap between print-using and cursive-using examinees, it turned out, was not 15% or anywhere near that — but averaged a mere one-fifth of a point (0.2 points) and was on the essay portion alone: so small a difference that it is, for instance, less than the score difference between male and female students taking the same exam. (The only “15%” anywhere in the research was the percentage of students who used cursive rather than in some other form of handwriting. Leising, on inquiry, stated that she did bit think the misrepresentation should be held against her because (she explained) /a/ it had resulted from her zeal to promote cursive, and /b/ because of her zeal for cursive, she would be entirely willing to make the same statement again, at any time, under any circumstances: she did not see the failure of her statement to accord with the data she was citing as a big enough reason to refrain from making any statement that would support cursive. (She has similarly explained herself in other years: usually adding a remark that she intends to defend cursive by any means available, as long as she is alive and in office)

  91. Curious – does taking a foreign language in school enable you to carry on ordinary and fluent conversations in that language ? I would assume that in order to become fluent it would be better to do an intensive conversational course. My friend did one in French and became fluent in far less time than we had thought. Here I know families who have their kids in the language immersion magnet school. I was interested but Kid 1 didn’t get picked by lottery.

  92. I should say middle/high school. If you are in a language immersion school that is different.

  93. Foreign language at my high school or in local elementary schools does not enable fluency. At the local expensive private school where foreign language is offered in early grades, it allows students to skip 1-2 years of high school, or up to 1 year of college foreign language study, per the school website.

    Our district offers a Spanish/English dual immersion program.

  94. Lauren – that’s what DH was just saying when I told him about the requirement for DS’s birth certificate. Why did I *not* need that for DD in one state, yet DS needs it in another? Very odd. Maybe the folks here let us get away with something? No idea.

    It’s because one of the clerks doesn’t know the correct requirements. As has been mentioned, passports are federal documents and the rules are the same in every state.

    DW took the kids to apply for their passports a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t go so I had the absentee parent forms notorized for her to bring. The clerk told her that even with the forms, I was supposed to include a copy of my driver’s license. He said he’d submit the applications but they could get help up because they didn’t have this. There is absolultey no mention of this whatsoever on the website, so I’m sure it’s an issue of him not knowing the correct requirements.

  95. Speaking of cursive and birth certificates, I dredged up out of ancient memory the process for obtaining birth certificates for school entrance or little league many years ago. Boston and surrounding towns in those days had town clerks who opened up large books of birth, death and marriage records, and copied out by hand in perfect Palmer penmanship the key details from the document, and affixed a big red seal. It was either free or at nominal cost. If you wrote in to the Commonwealth, the fee was higher and they issued a photocopy of the full typed document on an extra large piece of special green paper, and affixed the same big red seal at the bottom. Both were considered certified and in those days were used for all purposes. The way in which the short form fails the modern passport test, I guess, is that it has a clerk’s signature, not necessarily the registrar’s. I went down to the firebox and found both version of my first born’s birth certificate to compare.

  96. Curious – does taking a foreign language in school enable you to carry on ordinary and fluent conversations in that language ?

    No, it just gives you a foundation. I don’t think there’s any way to become fluent in a language without doing some sort of immersion.

  97. Kate Gladstone, that’s interesting background on the SAT / cursive claim. We have some state legislators like that too . . .

  98. @DD – I followed the same process and was told exactly the same thing (luckily, I had brought DH’s passport with me). None of which was explained online, of course, nor were the forms available to download and print (not that that kept the lady at the post office from being annoyed that I hadn’t filled them out in advance).

  99. Such legislators are common in the many states that have been approached by cursive lobbyists (there is at least one organized cursive lobby group) beginning in late January 2012 and continuing without sign of a pause. Some of them get their bills passed; some don’t — colleagues and I do our best to counter the untruths by writing to the media, legislators, etc. (For example, after the Indiana legislator I mentioned had altered data and wording in a scientific paper before handing out copies to all her fellow legislators at a joint session of the legislature, my colleagues and I e-mailed every one of those other legislators [with “cc”s to her] to tell them the URL where they could see the _actual_ published paper and compare it for themselves with the version they’d been spoon-fed by their colleague — we told them exactly what had been changed, and where, and how they could see the changes themselves, and of course we encouraged them to ask her to please explain the discrepancies and how these had come about. This was in 2012, so in 2013 she could not re-use that and was instead manipulating a different paper [the SAT study], and then still another one in 2014 — after which [2015 and 2016] she gave up giving any actual citation-info or URLS, either “up front” or on request, and started instead just saying “Research proves [that cursive is necessary for intelligence and complex language and concepts] … ” or “Child psychologists all agree [that writing in cursive is necessary for being able to read, spell, comprehend, understand sequences and order, and think critically]” — so of course we have challenged her (and have encouraged others to challenge her) to provide sources, and of course she doesn’t. Much the same is going on in other states, but there they share still more into misquotation/misrepresentation than into “delete the source, so you won’t be caught changing it” and so on.

  100. I now recall, that a few of my friends purposely slanted their cursive the opposite way, just to needle the teacher. The brats !

  101. nor were the forms available to download and print (not that that kept the lady at the post office from being annoyed that I hadn’t filled them out in advance).

    LfB, I had no trouble finding all the forms online and having them filled out beforehand. How long ago was it that you did it?

  102. @DD — Last week? The website gave me a form number to search for for a kid application, and when I searched for that number, it took me to another page that told me I had to come in person, and there were no links to the form itself.

    User error, I guess.

  103. Lark/ssk – thanks. It’s a nice way to recover, but a total drag that it has come to this.

  104. Risley, sorry about this curve ball but I’m glad you all are making lemonade out of lemons. Since he’s studying engineering I assume your son will have to postpone graduation by at least one semester. That can be tough, but not unusual, of course. One of my kids who unexpectedly took half a year off was able to graduate on time with no problem, but he was not a STEM major.

    Hearing these passport stories makes me wonder how much leeway individual states and processing sites have. We ran into a problem having to do with establishing me as the parent, which is a requirement in processing a 17 yo’s passport. Although it seemed to me that we had all the necessary documents, the agent was skeptical, probably because my D was adopted from another country. After hemming and hawing as well as additional consultation with his coworker, he “let” us submit the paperwork but advised us it might not go through. It went through fine.

  105. Here’s what the State Dept website says about 16-17yo passport applicants (I view this as the controlling statute/rule, but obviously there are overly officious bureaucrats around who believe differently. Fortunately the town clerk in the bordering town just follows the rules):

    SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR CHILDREN As directed by public law 106-113 AND 22 CFR 51.28:
    To submit an application for a child UNDER AGE 16 both parents or the child’s legal guardian(s) must appear and present the following:
    – Evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship;
    – Evidence of the child’s relationship to parents/guardian(s); AND
    – Parental/guardian government-issued identification.
    IF ONLY ONE PARENT APPEARS, YOU MUST ALSO SUBMIT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:
    – Second parent’s notarized written statement or DS-3053 (including the child’s full name and date of birth) consenting to the passport issuance for the child.
    The notarized statement cannot be more than three months old and must be signed and notarized on the same day, and must come with a photocopy of
    the front and back side of the second parent’s government-issued photo identification; OR
    – Second parent’s death certificate if second parent is deceased; OR
    – Primary evidence of sole authority to apply; OR
    – A written statement or DS-5525 (made under penalty of perjury) explaining in detail the second parent’s unavailability.
    AS DIRECTED BY REGULATION 22 C.F.R. 51.21 AND 51.28:
    – Each minor child applying for a U.S. passport book and/or passport card must appear in person.
    And further on http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/apply.html

    Parental Consent
    Minors ages 16-17 with their own identification can apply for a passport by themselves, however, it is RECOMMENDED (Fred’s note…this is NOT a requirement of the law) that at least one parent appear in person with the minor to identify him/her and to show parental awareness.

    Parental Awareness
    In addition to all other requirements to apply for a passport, minors ages 16 and 17 must also provide evidence of parental awareness, such as:
    – Having a parent accompany the minor when applying
    – Listing a parent as the Emergency Contact on the application
    – Using a parent’s check to pay the passport fees
    – A signed statement consenting to issuance of a passport from at least one parent (should be accompanied by a photocopy of that parent’s ID)

    Photo Identification
    When you submit your application, you must present one of the following primary photo identification documents, and submit a photocopy of that document:
    Valid Driver’s License (plus a second ID if issued in a different state than where you apply)
    Undamaged U.S. Passport (if issued less than 15 years ago)
    Certificate of Naturalization
    Valid government ID (city, state, or federal)
    Valid Military ID

    If you do not have any of the above documents, you will need to submit a combination of secondary identification documents with a photo and signature, such as:
    Expired Driver’s License
    State-issued ID Card
    Student ID Card
    Employment ID Card

    If your name or gender is different on your evidence of citizenship and/or ID, you may need to submit additional documentation.

  106. Late to this thread, and I haven’t read all the comments. In my job I occasionally see enrollment forms and have noticed that the younger applicants are not signing their name in cursive. My guess is that they don’t know how (but I have no way of knowing if that is the reason).

  107. It’s good to be thanked; there are cursive supporters who send me hate-mail (usually e-mail, sometimes snail-mailed in exquisite cursive, but — more often than the exquisite cursive — the snail-nails will be ineptly and semi-legibly penned, whether in cursive or not).
    One letter (in response to some facts I’ll post below) asked: “How does any of this DARE to be true?” — but my favorite was the one that denounced any handwriting program which didn’t culminate in 100%-joined cursive as “Satanic, Commie, Un-American handwriting.”

    Below is the sort of thing (sometimes run as a newspaper Op-Ed) which had prompted both replies and other, similar, ones …

    Handwriting matters — does cursive? Research shows that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are available on request.)

    Further research shows that the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. They join only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving others unjoined, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Teaching material for such practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where this is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive that too many North American educators venerate. (Again, sources are available on request.)

    Reading cursive — which still matters — is much easier and quicker to master than writing cursive. Reading cursive can be mastered in just 30 to 60 minutes, even by kids who print.
    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive.” Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach it explicitly and quickly, for free, instead of leaving this vital skill to depend upon learning to write in cursive?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser.. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. Most — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

    When even most handwriting teachers do not follow cursive, why glorify it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders allege that cursive has benefits justifying absolutely anything said or done to promote it. Cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly allege research support — repeatedly citing studies that were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant or by some other, earlier misrepresenter whom the claimant innocently trusts.

    What about cursive and signatures? Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    Questioned document examiners (specialists in the identification of signatures, verification of documents, etc.) find that the least forgeable signatures are plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if following cursive’s rules at all, are fairly complicated: easing forgery.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual. That is how any first-grade teacher immediately discerns (from print-writing on unsigned work) which child produced it.

    Mandating cursive to save handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to save clothing.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
    handwritingrepair@gmail.com

  108. Apparently driver’s licences from MN, IL, MO, NM, and WA are not compliant with the Real ID Act. This is one potential reason for differences between states in passport issuance.

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