cursive writing

I recently learned that Indiana, my beloved home state, is no longer requiring schools to teach cursive writing, focusing instead on printing and typing.

I remember struggling to perfect my cursive writing in Mr. Biltz’s fifth grade class. But I never came close to the beautiful script of my teacher. If there were an Olympics for penmanship, surely Mr. Biltz would have brought home the gold every time. As for me, I got Cs, the only ones of my elementary career.

But did I truly deserve those Cs? As future generations pass through each grade, digital communication will undoubtedly ease the burden of information transfer.

Should “antiquated” skills like cursive be phased out of institutional learning or do they still provide value?

It caused me to wonder, what other skills we may be losing in the digital age—and more importantly—should we care? 

A few come to mind, along with cursive:

  • Long division
  • Multiplication tables
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Any historical fact (in the age of Google)

What would be left to teach kids? You might think I would give an empathetic sigh—finally!—for all those kids who no longer have to endure what my generation did in elementary school. But, I can’t help feeling there is something terribly wrong with not teaching cursive anymore, and I felt sure I wasn’t alone.

However, I was surprised to learn that my fellow editors did not share my fears. TMG Editor Matt McLaughlin said he hasn’t used cursive in 30 years and thinks it’s harder to read and less practical than block letters. Interestingly though, his 8-year-old daughter is fascinated by cursive writing.

TMG Editor Corey Murray has no problem with eliminating cursive. While students, of course, need to know how to read and write, Murray points out that no one handwrites letters anymore and no employer will be asking for a handwriting sample. “Technology has and will continue to fundamentally alter how people communicate,” Murray says. “And schools have a responsibility to stay on top of these changes. There’s hardly enough time in the school day as it is.”

The only real support I found for cursive writing had little to do with what the words mean or how the practice helps you learn, but what handwriting looks like. Some lamented what would happen to typography if cursive were eliminated. Cursive writing is an art form, one that show’s a person’s unique personality. Through the ages, handwriting has been a part of our history and culture. Will that be lost?

Cursive is certainly faster than printing, and some suggest it’s an important tool for children to learn eye-hand coordination. I also wonder if it’s a critical part of how kids think and process ideas. I still use cursive on paper when I’m taking interview notes or brainstorming ideas. Is there a link between how I choose to write and how I think?

A Newsweek article seems to support this idea. Experts interviewed for the article said kids are learning how to learn when they are mastering handwriting and that handwriting needs to be fluid, something kids don’t need to think about. Speed is also important. If cursive disappears, will we realize one day a gap in students’ learning, a hiccup in their thinking process?

What do you think? Is cursive an integral part of students’ learning process or an antiquated waste of precious school hours?

[Image: fung.leo]