In Defense of Keeping Cursive in the Classroom
Why Cursive Handwriting is Still Relevant
If you read my Scantron article, you may remember that the increasing use of technology in classrooms was threatening to edge out the old way of test-taking. This week, technology takes on a new opponent in our schools: cursive. As computers become more available in more schools, penmanship in general falls by the wayside. Critics of cursive argue that it is a style of writing that is rarely used anymore – when handwriting is used at all – either in higher education or in the workplace. Furthermore, it isn’t necessarily any more legible than printing. On the other hand, educators fear that dismissing cursive from the curriculum will broaden the educational gap between students of different socioeconomic standing – once again, students who cannot afford computers get the short end of the stick.
Master penman and author Michael Sull is more concerned with students’ abilities to read cursive than their ability to write it. Sull points out that many very important historical documents, such as the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, are written in cursive. If we remove cursive from education, we remove future generations’ ability to decipher old texts in their original form.
Sull’s argument is the one that I personally find the most compelling. I hated learning cursive. For me, trying to write in cursive still makes me feel like I’ve completely lost control of my right hand. The last time I used cursive was for the honesty statement on the GRE, and by the end of that incredibly obnoxious paragraph I was just making random loops and squiggles. But! But. Whenever I so much as see a printout of a page from the journal of some long-ago writer, I feel a rush of excitement. The thrill of the intimacy created by reading that person’s words exactly as they were written all those years ago cannot be matched.
So yes, it is important to look toward the future, but it is also important to have access to the past. Instead of finding ways to cut corners and teach kids less, let’s teach them everything and let them decide what’s important to keep later. We won’t know what they’re going to build until their older and wiser, so we can’t be stingy with the tools we give them along the way. Allow me to officially cast my vote for keeping cursive in the curriculum. Besides, if I had to hunch over a page for hours painstakingly trying to achieve even a semi-legible result, so should the fourth graders of today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Sorry kids. It’s time to put down the iPad, pick up a pencil, and practice your cursive!