The Demise of Cursive: So What?

By way of the NCTE INBOX service, here’s a feature story about how cursive-style handwriting isn’t being taught much anymore, at least in the Detroit area. As the article laments, “Taught for more than 300 years in the U.S., cursive writing has a storied past. But in schools across southeast Michigan, fancy writing has been reduced to an independent study, an “as-we-have-time” course in second or third grade. Papers written in cursive may be required in later grades, but with legibility spotty, computer printouts often are accepted instead.”

I have a hard time getting too terribly sad by this. For one thing, I hated being taught cursive and “proper writing” and all of that. I’m left-handed, which means that I had to figure out how to do all of the various pen-holding techniques backwards, and I still managed to drag my fat little hand through my ugly little letters. In the fourth grade, I actually failed handwriting. Maybe that’s the real reason I became a writer and a writing teacher.

Anyway, another reason I have a hard time getting too sad about the loss of old-fashioned cursive is it seems to be being replaced by something that matters. When the reporter asked a group of second graders “whether they would rather spend time learning cursive or computers, computers had the second-graders’ hearts. Hands down. “

The article tries to suggest that these kids just want to have fun and not buckle-down and take the time to learn a fine cursive hand. But I think these second graders are a lot smarter than that. I think these kids already realize that knowing how to effectively use a computer is going to be a lot more important for their future than learning how to write pretty.

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