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handwriting legislation research education public concern news investigation probe hbo cursive

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#1 KateGladstone

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 03:03

I have been helping HBO's news program LAST WEEK TONIGHT research a matter relevant to my profession and to our shared interest: namely, misrepresentations made by legislators in numerous US states, in order to require cursive.
That I dislike so much about cursive-as-we-know-it is not the point of the program — the point is that the cursive boosters are systematically misrepresenting research documentation in order to make the documentation support cursive.
This has been going on for a couple of years now, as you may know, in a number of state legislatures and school boards where various organizations and lobbies are "working with" state legislatures to have those legislators present — under oath — misstatements on handwriting as fact because such misstatements are necessary in order to promote cursive. The legislators, in bills they introduce & in hearings/testimony on those bills, misquote research they cite — and make other documentable misrepresentations — which the salesmen for certain textbook companies, as well as pressure-groups such as "Campaign for Cursive" (yes, an actual group!) are presenting to the legislators as fact. In some cases, it gets worse, and the legislators involved have not been "fed" anything by lobbyists, but have outright and unashamedly been making up THEIR OWN facts.)
This is why the LAST WEEK TONIGHT researcher, Liz Day, phoned me yesterday for help (she'd been reading things I post as blog-comments on the Net, as well as news-pieces citing me, and had also seen state-legislature footage that showed people who were under oath, stating "facts" that were easily documented as being misrepresentations of the stuff that these people claimed to be quoting or citing), so I have spent today and tonight getting together all the documentation to send to her. So I MAY get on TV ... Or at least, my information will, and I will apparently be credited in some way. The episode airs on Saturday, November 2, 11:00 PM Eastern time.

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#2 playtime

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 03:07

thx for the heads-up. will definitely watch it!

 

J


"Writing is 1/3 nib width & flex, 1/3 paper and 1/3 ink. In that order."Bo Bo Olson

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#3 tinysnail

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 03:10

That's so cool! Last Week Tonight is brilliant. Will make sure to watch.

#4 MKeith

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 03:53

Unfortunately I don't get HBO so won't be able to watch this. After reading your post above, I am a bit confused as to what your position is on the instruction of cursive writing in schools. My state just recently voted (through it's Board. of Education) to continue this instruction for students. Forgive me, but after reading several of the articles on your blog, I am still not clear on your position other than basically your instruction is to make writing more legible and faster?. Without having to pay a fee to see the areas on your blog explaining this information I am wondering if you can briefly explain it to me, as well as where, yours or others refuting published research data, particularly as to the legislators information being false, may be obtained in a public forum without fee if possible. I am an advocate of the instruction of cursive writing in schools so I am very interested in the topic. Sorry for the rambling sentences, it's getting late. Thanks Kate.

 

K.


Edited by MKeith, 26 October 2014 - 04:15.

"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" Patrick Henry

#5 KateGladstone

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 04:44

Which blog of mine have you been reading?

As to form of handwriting: I teach & advocate italic, while recognizing that good hwg is of course possible in other forms too. Iam less opposed to anyone's chosen form than to the current popularity of misrepresenting research in order to make that choice a requirement.

Since my usual ''boilerplate" to newspapers/etc. includes some research citations, it will close this letter. The next message from me will link (via a search-engine) to some of the things that led HBO to phone me.

(BOILERPLATE)

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, reversal in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”)

— According to cpmparative 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 an iPad app teaching kids and others to read cursive, whether or not they write it or ever will wrote it. The app — “Read Cursive” — is a free download. Those who are rightly concerned with the vanishing skill of cursive reading may wish to visit appstore.com/readcursive for more information.)

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 writs 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 handwrlting 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://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioart...c/hwlesson.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 nor 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 — 72% 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 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 supportm—,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,

or

/2/ if a source is cited, and anyone checks it out, the source turns out to have been misquoted or incorrectly paraphrases by the person citing it

or

/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...us/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...us/27542188.pdf

Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summi...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.hw21summ...ch-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) —
http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0



Yours for better letters,




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

= Sent by the Handwriting Repairwoman =

#6 KateGladstone

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 04:48

Most of the first page of links at the following search-engine link will show why HBO ended up phoning me after reading those pieces:
http://www.bing.com/...rch&form=APIPA1

#7 Tootles

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 18:55

I can read or write cursive. Was taught through the English school system. However, I am  a very flexible writer who will use whatever form I feel necessary or appropriate or convenient to the task at hand. So, if I am making a shopping list I may print for absolute clarity - as I may not be the one reading it. When I am writing personal correspondences I will use cursive or italic hands, and so on. For me, printed script lacks any real aesthetic value. What I see in the argument for and against learning cursive is the same old ideas that have been floated concerning plain language. Our language is rich, malleable and expressive. Simple language, while good for conveying information, largely bypasses any artistic content. It basically ignores the subtext of more complex language. Some ideas, some thoughts, require the subtleties of subtext to add depth. Plain language takes this away by claiming it is unnecessary. The advocates who suggest that plain language is the best are 100% incorrect.

 

In the future  there will be a movement that will ask: why bother taking a degree at university? After all, we are unlikely to use much of the information in our working life. People have said this about school subjects for years, by the way. Skills you learn but never use. Yet this is not the whole truth. While a learned skill may never be used, there is a subtextual - if you will - component to that process that will almost certainly be useful.

 

Ultimately, and in my opinion only, good cursive handwriting has a visual flow to it that I find lacking in printed text. It is pleasing to my eye and a pleasure to write too.

 

I wouldn't go so far as to make a campaign for the retention of cursive education, though I would caution against the other extreme - which seems to be popular among opponents in all such arguments these days - that of dispensing with it altogether for perceived lack of ANY value.



#8 Uncial

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 20:42

It's the old saying, 'You don't know what you've got til it's gone'. I was taught cursive in school and as far as I understand it is the basis for many calligraphic techniques and other handwriting styles. There will always be some that see it as a pretentious waste of time - especially as so much now is printed off a computer - but I think (and I'm aware some will think I am overstating it) that even loosing a basic handwriting form like cursive in schools is the slow erosion of the skill and beauty of handwriting; and beauty is the key. I'm not saying that the printed form or italic's can't be beautiful, but cursive and the myriad of spin off's with ever-increasing flourishing has an unparalleled beauty (in my opinion!) and here in the West that aspect of aesthetics and beauty in the written form does seem to be disappearing fast which is incredibly sad.



#9 KateGladstone

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 21:57

As I said: though I dislike cursive in its current forms, what I _really_ object to (among cursive boosters in the legislatures and the mass media) is their willingness (nay, often eagerness!) to falsify materials they cite. (If they did not falsify theor research, I would not mind their raising arguments from esthetics — though I would point out that these are, at present, impossible to quantify objectively.)

The forthcoming exposé on this matter (HBO TV, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver") airs Sunday, November 2 at 11:00 PM Eastern Time — I have reason to believe that I will be mentioned in there somewhere, because much of the evidence takes the form of correspondence between me and a legislator in who had presented, under oath, false information on the findings of a research study in order to make that study appear to support cursive, as she was introducing a bill to mandate cursive in the schools of her state.

Specifically, the legislator (a state senator in North Carolina) had claimed under oath, as a key part of her testimony for her bill, that one research study had found /1/ that the human brain does not operate at all while its owner is keyboarding, /2/ that only one-half of the brain operates while its owner is print-writing, and /3/ that during cursive writing — and only then — do both halves of the brain operate. Naturally, I was VERY curious (particularly about point /1/!).
Since the senator (Patricia Hurley) had not given any citation info (such as author or title) for the study she said she was citing, I e-mailed her to ask for that info: introducing myself as a handwriting teacher who was following the news on that subject. Her office aide, at her direction, e-mailed me an article by a well-known researcher into the mechanics and neural correlates of handwriting (Dr. Virginia Berninger, whom in fact I had recently met at a conference) — and, not much to my surprise at this point, the article said nearly the dorect opposite of what the senator had claimed it had said. (To wit: the article documented that any form of writing — cirsive or other — uses predominantly one half of the brain , while keyboarding uses both halves of the brain.)
So I wrote back to the senator, with a "cc" to her office aide, pointing out the discrepancy and asking if she could reconcile it for me. The response (again from the office aide, at the direction of the senator) was that they were forwarding my question — and "cc"ing the reply I was reading — to the source that had provided them with this information, and were asking that source to please answer my question. Although the letter did not name that source outright, the "cc" address on the letter belongs to a woman who is the regional sales-manager (North and Sourh Carolina) for Zaner-Bloser, Incorporated — a handwriting textbook publisher with a long history of commitment to cursive. I waited about two weeks for a reply; receiving none, I wrote to the sales-manager (with "cc"s to the senator and to her office-aide) to recap the previous correspondence and to ask whether I might receive (as her North Carolina contacts had suggested) some explanation of the discrepancy: given that these contacts had suggested that she was the person best fitted to answer my question. I received no response from any of the three — nor, by now, do I expect one: the above events took place in April,and May of 2013.
There is more to the story — but HBO will probsbly reveal at least some of that "more": let's see how much of it they will tell the nation next week.

#10 MKeith

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 03:22

Kate,

 

Thanks for the response. In a nutshell it seems that you are striving for writing that is legible, fast, and not legislated cursive writing. Fortunately cursive can be taught in schools for virtually nothing more than a chart and lined writing paper. Yes, I advocate the teaching of cursive and am thankful that the Board of Education in my state have voted to continue to teach it. I think that after the initial instruction in grade school each student can later adapt his/her writing to suit their requirements. I personally am disturbed over this electronic world requiring our students and everyone else to have a laptop, tablet, I-Phone etc. The personalization of communication much of the time dies in the process. They have their purpose, but truthfully I would rather talk to someone than text, receive a handwritten letter or note, or read an actual book than read it online or on a tablet or e-reader. Cursive writing to me requires an actual slowing down to make my thoughts clear  while having a personal distinctiveness, whether it fits any particular standard of others.

 

I have had for many decades a profound interest in American History. A friend of mine who is a professor of history told me once that research students in this day an age have a real problem reading cursive which required much more than 30-60 minutes to rectify. This is particularly true in documents and letters spanning four or more centuries and multiple different styles.

 

I wish you luck in righting the wrongs of the perjurers out there, but some opinions professed on both sides are just that, opinions, without any actual tangible evidence to prove it either way. I believe Crytos and Uncial have probably stated some of these thoughts better than I have. Again thanks, and these are just my opinions.

 

K.


Edited by MKeith, 29 October 2014 - 02:03.

"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" Patrick Henry

#11 KateGladstone

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 04:37

Whatever kind of handwriting is taught for various reasons, I favor an italic students should be not merely permitted, but encouraged and GUIDED, TO "later adapt [the taught model of] writing to suit their requirements." Such encouragement, advice and demonstration of the possibilities, with the advantages and possible disadvantages of each one need and deserves to be in the textbook and the handwriting curriculum, every bit as much as the model itself (and for many of the same reasons, with other reasons too.
Re the difficulty of learning to read cursive that difficulty (and consequently the time and effort needed to learn this skill) depend very much on the training method used, on the sequencing of the examples to be used in the training, on whether the difficulties are made plain by the instructor's showing pictorially (not just telling) how each cursive letter came about, over time, from a more immediately comprehensible form ... and, above all, on the YOUTH of the student: five- and six-year-olds, if they can read print, learn cursive reading far faster and more easily than seven- and eight-year-olds, who find it a bit less difficult than do adults encountering cursive and having to learn to read it. Note that writing cursive does not guarantee the ability to read it: too many people forget that the young woman who famously (or infamously) couldn't read cursive (on the witness stand in a recent murder trial) had in fact WRITTEN the cursively handwritten letter she couldn't read. (I was in a like situation, until I was about her age and in graduate school ... whose classes did not, of course, teach cursive reading: i had to teach myself that.)





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