Do We Need Cursive?

Remember that first day you learned cursive? Were you confused when your teacher demonstrated how to draw the swooping, semi-delicate letters, that bizzaro version of the alphabet you were used to writing with? It seemed impossible but you managed to adopt it as your own, and probably wrote like that through the end of high school, or perhaps still write in cursive to this day. Or you might have dropped cursive toward the end of middle school – as many of my friends did – but the point is, you learned it.

Image courtesy of Peter Stevenson for The New York Times

These days, cursive writing is taught less and less. While some see cursive as a dying art form or, at least, a way to take quick notes, younger generations are seeing it as an ancient, nearly uncrackable code.

Earlier this year, The New York Times interviewed Jimmy Bryant, an archivist who pointed out that students’ access to historical documents is put into peril when they are unable to read cursive. Old letters, folios, even the U.S. Constitution are written in a way that could be inaccessible to thousands of students.

Still, Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii have all done away with cursive requirements, viewing it as a relic of the past (teachers are still permitted to teach it if desired). And cursive is not on mandated standardized tests, so districts see less reason to spend time on it.

Some argue that cursive is a good skill to have because it’s difficult to forge, though people are writing less in general. Forgery is not a big threat to a teenager who spends off hours texting. Big essays and papers are almost always written on computers. Others say children need to learn cursive so that they can read their teacher’s handwriting, though that logic sounds a bit backwards if you do indeed believe that cursive will die off with older generations.

Do your students use cursive? Do you see it as a lost art form, or an antiquated form of communication? Do you defend cursive out of nostalgia or because you think it’s an important skill?

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