Is Cursive Dying?

As I was helping my new ESL students go through the registration process a few weeks ago, I was reminded about cursive writing. You’re probably wondering how a person can be “reminded” of cursive. Well, I’m reminded that many non-native English speakers can’t read cursive. My students were handed a form that had cursive writing filled into some of the blanks, and they told me they couldn’t read it and wanted help. I had learned during my time in China that my students there couldn’t read cursive either, but I hadn’t thought of it for quite a while.

I hardly ever write in cursive. It takes much more time for me, and, actually, I don’t remember how to form some of the letters. I’ve also noticed that, at least at my workplace, that hardly anyone my age writes in cursive, but the older folks do. (You can decide for yourself if you fit into the older folks category!)

Recently, while in the waiting room to see the doctor, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that supports some of these ideas. The article explained that cursive began because when quills were used to write with, they often splattered. Cursive solved this problem and was used until the 1900’s when it stopped being as important. Children used to learn cursive in 1st grade, then it slid up to 3rd grade. 88% of elementary school teachers today don’t feel like they even know cursive well enough to teach it! Also, a study showed that 85% of college students print instead of using cursive. I took a little informal poll of my college students to see which they preferred, and it seemed about 50-50. The ones that said print do so because it’s neater. The ones that said they like cursive made sure to tell me that a main reason is because they are afraid cursive is dying.

Is cursive really dying? Maybe so. In Indiana, they no longer require students to learn cursive, instead focusing on being able to use a keyboard. In one article I read, a 40 year teaching veteran lamented the loss of skill at cursive writing, saying that prospective employers are impressed with “attractive writing”. I’m sure that my boss has never seen my handwriting in the 4 years I’ve been at my current job, let alone use it as a deciding factor on whether or not to hire me.

Some would even argue that writing by hand is dying. I don’t know about you, but I like to see a note written, not typed, from someone I care about. And it’s great to look at a recipe written out on an index card by my grandma. Even if I do have a little trouble reading her cursive writing… :]

Do you feel strongly one way or the other about cursive writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

11 thoughts on “Is Cursive Dying?

  1. A friend of mine, who is also a high school English teacher told me that her son, who I taught years ago, was given a hand written letter by his grandfather. It is written in cursive. She was distraught to discover that her son couldn’t read it. It came home to me that students might be missing out by not being able to decipher the script. So, I try to split the difference. We write non-stop in my classroom, and I don’t dictate the script so it is mostly print (if not typed). But I do think students should be able to read cursive. So I write in cursive on many of my white board assignments. I also have a poster of the alphabet in cursive up for them to reference. Just in case.

    • It is sad that some can’t read it. So you bring up a good question. Is it enough for students to be able to read it, or should they be able to write it as well? Do you think cursive will eventually phase out?

      • Sure it will. All scripts were created to fit a need. Think of the other hand scripts that have gone before. “Secretary hand” comes to mind, along with the illuminated texts of the bound manuscripts, Latin or English. Today we have to be specially trained to read them. Still, I see no need to hurry cursive to its grave. As long as grandparents are writing lovely letters, people should be able to read them.

  2. I will never forget how to write in cursive because the first one to neatly finish their cursive writing in my 3rd grade class was awarded computer time. The game selection at the time was either Oregon Trail or Odell Lake. I still remember getting writing assignments in school where one of the requirements was that it had to be written in cursive. I see no reason at all why kids shouldn’t be learning cursive. What if you’re not near a computer and you want to write something down? Why not write it in cursive? I’ll be teaching my kids to write in cursive because it’s a beautiful art form and a form of self expression that added to any written communication. If they are interested I’ll even introduce them to calligraphy, but that’s another topic all together.

      • We could just cook food so that it would be suitable for consumption, but we have the culinary arts. We could make every building a concrete square with holes for windows and doors, but we have architectural art. Some art forms can also be functional. They add an aesthetic aspect to things that could purely be function. They make the things that we have to do anyway, like cooking food or building shelter, more pleasing to the eye. Beside being pleasing to the eye, they allow a form of self expression that adds a visual element to the vast array of literary devices available to writers. Although this is an information age, we still find it necessary and valuable to put the old pen/pencil to the paper. Cursive may have come about as a clever way to deal with leaky quill pens, but it’s more than that now and has value as another way of writing. Besides, touch screen technology has come so far that it is possible to write in cursive and keep it in a familiar and more comfortable digital format.

  3. In Thailand my Ss will surprise me with writing in cursive. It’s nice to see! I think cursive is becoming a lost art form. After all, handwriting is a form of individual expression. What a shame!

    • I’m surprised to hear that your Thai students can write in cursive! Great! Do they all know how to do it? Were they taught it in school? Thanks for reading Lani! :]

  4. I recently read another blog about the uselessness of cursive writing. The writer argued that we are all required to learn it in primary school, and many of us never use it again. It’s true, and I love that Indiana is taking the first steps to eliminating it and putting more focus on typing – a skill all students will need in their near future. I agree, it’s pretty to see something handwritten, but if it’s in cursive, it’s probably difficult to read.

    • The value in learning something is not simply determined by whether or not we will use it again. When is the next time you plan on finger painting? What about preserving a beautiful autumn leaf between two pieces of wax paper? You plan on making your own coffee mug in a kiln anytime soon? Even though your answer might be know it doesn’t mean that schools should no longer teach these things. Besides they deemed it necessary to learn trigonometry and calculus when generally speaking you will *never* use that information in ordinary daily life.

      If it’s only about what we will use in daily life then we could ax all arts programs across the board, but the arts, and cursive as a more functional art form, has value and enriches a person in ways that can’t necessarily be measured on a standardized test.

      • You make a valid point.I agree that many things are worth learning despite the fact we may never use them again, but I fail to see the purpose of learning anything just one quick time, and never touching on it again. Cursive is like learning the state capitols and certain art projects – we were only taught them once, at a very young age, and never again. I think most people learn best with repetition, especially when the first introduction was before 5th grade, and without proper re-learning, we forget the majority of what we did learn and only remember the fact that we did, once, learn it.

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