Cursive or cursed?

 //  Jul 18, 2013

Cursive or cursed?

If I owe you a thank-you note, I apologize. My Catholic school upbringing has led me to believe that I can only express my gratitude in one way: legible script.

Computer use and its attendant impatience have led to the near demise of my handwriting. Were you to see my scribbled signature on any given credit card receipt, you might conclude that I have a medical degree rather than a diploma from Holy Cross Grammar School, once a nerve center of the Palmer Method of penmanship.

Should today's kids learn cursive as I did? Is it essential for developing hand-eye coordination, knowing how to read the past and express one's creativity? Or is script obsolete, like vinyl records and paying for content?

After noting the absence of cursive writing instruction in the Common Core State Standards, Brian Lehrer, a talk show host on public radio in New York City, took up the matter. You can listen to his conversation with teachers here. The listener comments posted beneath the audio link are also interesting.

If cursive hadn't faded in recent decades, the great American novel I wrote 15 years ago might not be sealed on a Zip disk that my MacBook Pro has zero interest in reading.

But if you really want to feel sorry for someone, tour the National Archives. You'll see what record keepers have had to do in the computer age to preserve American history, much of which now resides in a nameless cloud.

What do you think? Should we—can we—keep cursive alive? Let me know, preferably in script.


Hi Amber, thank you for

Hi Amber, thank you for writing and for including the link to a great article by Dr. Klemm. Despite recent technological advances, "old-fashioned" skills like knowing how to write in cursive, play a musical instrument, and paint or draw, say, still hold value, for both an individual and a society.

I also saw this article, and

I also saw this article, and I agree with you, Amber. I have been a middle school teacher (6-8) for many years and an elementary teacher (3-5) as well. I believe that cursive writing does make a difference to my students, and does have an effect on their learning. I can understand the argument that cursive is obsolete due to keyboarding. But, to utilize your comparison to vinyl.....the new "modern" methods of music storage do not have the quality of sound that vinyl does, which is WHY many musicians are returning to vinyl. Just because something appears old-fashioned, that does not make it less worthwhile, unnecessary or even wrong.

It is sad that cursive is

It is sad that cursive is becoming obsolete. I wish we could teach it, but in Texas if it is not on STAAR, it does not get taught. Not only can my students not write it, they can't read it either which means when I am grading essays I must PRINT all my comments or be faced with students bringing their papers up asking what I wrote...and I have neat cursive!

I too teach middle school and

I too teach middle school and my students can not read my cursive comments. I even heard a fellow teacher explain that Mrs. Taft has difficult handwriting ... it was in cursive and that she would gladly explain. I am proud to note that while we are in a CCSS state, the English teacher on my team is "old school" and teaches the students how to write cursive. I homeschool my son and have begun teaching him cursive as well. I also am requiring him to learn to properly type on said keyboard. Another lost art thanks to texting.

Kids these days could use

Kids these days could use some "antique" methods for once. What I mean is, this generation of children are growing up surrounded by technology, everything they do is on a machine. I've seen kids with better tablets and phones than mine all of which have auto-correct and tools to make your writing "better". But like the post says, cursive is "essential for developing hand-eye coordination", plus almost everyone before them know how to use it and use it. They shouldn't be left behind. Like vinyl records, it's something that people is going to appreciate with time. Don't forget, my friend, up to this day there are people who collect those records, just as there are people who still write beautiful letters in cursive handwriting. They will choose in time if it is useful for them or not, but the tool should be given to them anyway.

Many thanks for your

Many thanks for your thoughtful observations, Mel. I couldn't agree more. At some point, my record player broke. I have been looking for a good replacement for years—not easy to come by. As soon as I find one, my first order of business will be to play Armstrong and Ellington's Paris Blues, an album I picked up in New Orleans many years ago. Irreplaceable.

I introduce my 3rd graders to

I introduce my 3rd graders to cursive each year, and they receive packets to work on it on their own, but that's about it; they are introduced to the letters and they practice writing words and their name in cursive. That's the extent that that they will need cursive to function in the future. As far as needing cursive to help with hand-eye coordination, I suppose that's one way to develop it, however, I'm guessing you haven't watched how fast kids can text message and play video games, etc. The hand-eye coordination there is mind-boggling.

Thank you for writing, Neil.

Thank you for writing, Neil. I'm glad that your third graders are introduced to cursive. It will be interesting to see whether that training will enable them to read historical documents in the future.

I teach 4th grade in

I teach 4th grade in Washington State where we have our state assessment in WRITING, along with reading and math. If the unbiased test scorers cannot read what the children have written, then they are not scored accurately. They may have wonderful, but illegible ideas. I briefly teach cursive in our writing time and give students a packet to work on independently. I think it is an necessary art to be able to write in cursive. I tell my students that once they master cursive, they will actually write faster than if they were to print.

I'm all for keeping cursive

I'm all for keeping cursive writing. What I'm not for are children barely getting to the point that they are comfortable writing in print; when cursive is thrown at them too. There are so many articles/studies out there that point out that children should be a lot older than the schools, in the past, have started teaching cursive in class. I think it's sad that those who "control public education" do not take into account actual child growth and development into account when setting up "core standards."

Hi Rebecca,

Hi Rebecca,
Interesting observations. I recall learning cursive in second grade. I was told that I held the pencil incorrectly and that my hand would hurt as a result. Don't know what that was about, but I managed just fine. As for public education mandates, we all need to be continually vigilant to ensure that our children get the best education possible. Sounds like you're doing just that. Thanks for writing.

I am happy to report that I

I am happy to report that I have been teaching cursive in my kindergarten class for the last 16 years they can read it and they can write it better than most adults.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story, Bethany. I hope that your example will inspire others to keep cursive alive. Knowing how to read and write it has so many benefits.