Dec 03, 2013, 07:44AM

Is Cursive Handwriting Dead?

The disappearance of penmanship.

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“I don’t know how to read this because you’re the only one who writes that way,” my eight-year-old son said, glancing down at the handwritten note written in cursive that I’d left on the kitchen counter.

And then I stabbed myself in the neck with a sharp kitchen knife and died and now you’re reading this because it turns out that my ghost could possess my aging MacBook. Seriously, I was incredulous. “What do you mean you can’t read cursive handwriting, honey? This is the way mommy writes, but a lot of other people write this way too.”

“Oh yeah, maybe like Grandma and Nanny,” he said, referencing his grandmothers.

“Doesn’t your teacher write this way?”

“Uh, not really.”

I’d heard rumors of the school systems getting rid of this allegedly outdated form of writing, and it turns out that 45 states last month adopted core curriculum standards that drop cursive handwriting. Maryland is one of a handful of states proposing measures to continue teaching the writing form. I’m not sure why they didn’t drop algebra instead, because in a school subject smackdown, I’ve used handwriting a lot more than algebra over the years.

But the world is stupid and here we are, with second graders who don’t know how to read cursive.

I love handwriting. In Catholic School, not only were we taught handwriting, we were graded on it as a subject. I aced it every time, got a calligraphy kit for Christmas when I was 12 and have been writing with calligraphy pens ever since. I still prefer writing or receiving a handwritten communication to any other form.

I’m not the kind of mom who flies the broomstick over to school buildings on issues involving my kids; I’m a free-ranger versus a helicopter parent. But I’d be the first to sign “Save the Handwriting” petitions, attend school board meetings, and, naturally, write letters to convince people that we can’t let the beautifully written word fall by the wayside.

I will homeschool this if I have to: buy cursive alphabet instruction kits, tell my kids all I want for Christmas is handwritten letters, give candy rewards for penmanship; I’m not beyond flat-out bribery. But I will not raise kids who don’t know how to read and write in cursive. I work on the Internet and accept that my children communicate primarily via text message, so I’m no Luddite. But I positively refuse to believe that cursive handwriting is dead, and I won’t be a part of letting it disappear.

  • it's a cultural appendix - let's shave it off gleefully! humanity should constantly be pushing to streamline itself and make life on this hellish planet more bearable and more comfortable and prosperous. Holding onto 'traditions' for their own sake, and outdated models of handwriting like cursive, is simply silly.

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  • Sorry, Mary, but I agree with grumpy Sponge. Handwriting is so last century, and frankly, the math I learned in school has come in far more handing than penmanship.

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  • I kept a cursive-handwritten journal when my son was a baby, to give him when he turns 18. I'd like him to be able to read it. Number of Facebook likes on this article: 1. Grumpy people with shitty handwriting: 0.

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  • Mary, I totally see where you are coming from, but, it's inevitable, cursive isn't going to be taught anymore. I'm 20-year-old college student. I was taught cursive in 5th grade. I used it extensively all throughout 5th and 6th grade. After those two years, for some reason, I stopped using it. Since then, the only time I've used cursive (other than for signatures) was on the SATs: there was a section where everyone had to transcribe the same portion of text. I forget for what purpose we did this. It might have been to protect against cheating, although I’m not entirely sure. What I do remember, though, is how long it took the class to complete it. We must have sat there for a good 15 minutes because nobody could actually write a paragraph in cursive. I'm assuming everyone's attempts ended up looking like a bunch of squiggles. In my opinion, I think the solution would be for schools to create a Cursive Writing elective that kids could take. Obviously, cursive isn't hard to read or write, as long as you know how to do it. And it is faster than printing. I bet a lot of high school students would jump at taking a cursive class. As long as it was made interesting that is. There are so many important historical and cultural documents that are written in cursive hand writing. It scares me to think that in the future, people might not be able to read the actual documents themselves. They'll need "non-cursive", printed translations in order to understand them. Also, people should know how to sign their own names! I know actual signatures are getting less relevant as everything continues to go electronic, but people need to know how to sign their own names.

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