Here’s an unexpected, unintended consequence of pouring precious classroom time into cursive … according to this study from the Journal of Education Research, the longer a student has been taught cursive/required to use cursive. the smaller the vocabulary of that student will be when s/he reaches 4th grade — and even when s/he reaches 6th grade.
Specifically, the study examined the vocabulary-size of students (in fourth grade and in sixth grade) whose classrooms had changed the students’ handwriting to cursive starting at 4 different times: /a/ changeover starting at the beginning of 2nd grade, or /b/ changeover starting in the middle of 2nd grade, or /c/ changeover starting at the beginning of 3rd grade, or /d/ changeover starting at the middle of 3rd grade.
The more education a child had been allowed to have before his/her handwriting was changed over to cursive, the larger his or her vocabulary was (as measured by the number of different words used in the student’s writing over the course of a year).
The differences were huge — the kids who’d been required to do the least cursive had vocabularies THREE TIMES the size of those who’d been required to do the most cursive.
From this, for some reason, the researchers decided that the second half of 3rd grade was a great time to change everyone’s writing to cursive (which, as the researchers themselves pointed out, means putting all other aspects of written English on hold in order to go back to scratch and start all over again with the ABC.)
The logical decision, though, would have be to wonder why any age-group at all should be required to spend time on what amounted to an exercise in vocabulary-stunting — not that cursive in itself is bad for your vocabulary … but you’re unlikely to increase your vocabulary when vocabulary-building (or whatever else you might learn in an English lesson) has been pushed aside for the sake of changing your handwriting style.
The fact that the vocabulary-stunting effect was worst for those who had had the earliest change-over can — as the researchers noted — be at least partly explaned by the fact that any educational damage has worse effects when imposed on younger, more impressionable, more ignorant students.