Though it was years ago, I still vividly remember my third-grade cursive lessons. They were taught once per day, for an hour or so, and involved wide books full of examples and empty lines for tedious repetitions. After third grade, the decision was up to us: print or cursive, as long as it was legible. While I chose to keep a cursive hybrid, many of us abandoned cursive writing forever—a sign that, even then, the flowing script was on its way out.
Before 2010, when the Common Core State Standards had not yet been introduced, cursive was on a slow ride to extinction. Now, with the Standards having been adopted in 46 states, cursive is dying—fast. The Standards for elementary schools omit, though they do not prohibit, a cursive standard, replacing it with computer keyboard proficiency. The inclusion of cursive lessons is now left up entirely to school boards and principals, and most are choosing to leave them out due to already tight curricula and limited resources.
The argument for keeping cursive in schools is limited. The strongest argument is to keep cursive for the sake of signatures, which are still used today for endorsing official documents. Most signatures are cursive based, and eliminating script means signatures will become printing based, putting people at risk for fraud and identity theft, since cursive signatures are harder to forge. Some of those who fight for cursive also vouch for the traditional and historical value of cursive and argue that the script is a part of our culture.
Those who are against keeping cursive in the curriculum have a more compelling argument. Since we’ve moved into the Digital Age, cursive writing isn’t necessary. Almost everything—even things that require signatures—can be done electronically. Plus, when pen-on-paper is necessary, unlike decades ago, most people choose to print rather than use cursive. Think about it—how often do you use the formal, looping script? Not only is cursive no longer necessary or frequently used, there is limited classroom time to teach it. Since there have been no conclusive studies that prove cursive is wholly beneficial to students’ education, most teachers have commented that they would rather spend the time focusing on other, more useful topics.
It might be time to tuck away any of those cursive letters, essays or other papers, for soon enough they’ll be seen as historical artifacts: relics of penmanship’s past.
- Jimmy Bryant, “Room for Debate: Is Cursive Dead? A Cultural Tradition Worth Preserving,” The New York Times, April 30, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/cursive-handwriting-is-a-cultural-tradition-worth-preserving.
- Morgan Polikoff, “Room for Debate: Is Cursive Dead? Let It Die. It’s Already Dying,” The New York Times, April 30, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/let-cursive-handwriting-die.
- Rob Furnman, “The Great Handwriting Debate,” The Huffington Post, May 8, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-furman/the-great-handwriting-deb_b_3237152.html.