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.