Cursive or Curse


Several months ago I heard some hype about schools no longer teaching cursive handwriting. Or maybe it was just in our corner of the academic world.

What to think about it?

Some baby boomers feel cursive handwriting is an art form which leads to the development of fine motor skills in children. The younger generation say that since we can sign papers electronically, who needs to learn cursive?

Let’s imagine for a few minutes, that schools actually stopped teaching cursive handwriting. Here’s a ‘what-if” scenario which could take place in 2030.

Two explorers are walking through hill country in southern Missouri. One of them is gray-haired, the other about fourteen years old. They come upon an old, abandoned schoolhouse covered with waist-high grasses.

“Hey, Uncle Albatross, an old schoolhouse! Let’s go inside!

The door creaks on its rusty hinges as they enter.

“Hey Unc, would you look at that! Where are the computers? And the smartboards?”

“Wormwood, they didn’t have them back in the good old days. They had this thing called cursive writing. They gripped a pencil—ah, here’s one is the teacher’s desk—and made marks on paper.”

“Really? What did cursive look like?”

“Let’s see if we can find some old papers somewhere.”

“You’re telling me people actually sat at desks and wrote with their hands???

“Life was a lot slower back then, kid.”

“So, what does that paper say?”

“It says, I will not talk out loud in class. And it’s written at least a hundred times!

“What a waste of time! I would have disciplined the kid by taking away his smartphone.”

“Remember, they didn’t have things like that back then. At least not in rural schools like this one.”

“Here’s another one. It looks like the teacher wrote this. Dear Mrs. Smith, Please advise Johnny to keep his snake at home. Thank you, Miss Fauntleroy.”

“Hey Uncle Albatross, what about those funny marks on the wall? Is that cursive handwriting?”

“That’s a chalkboard, Wormwood, and yes, it’s cursive. It says, Assignment for Friday: Write a one-page essay in your best handwriting, on the topic, ‘How to Show Respect to My Elders.’

Back to the present. I am all for progress, if it means we don’t lose something valuable from the past. As I tell my kids, if you have the right to your opinion, I have the right to mine. And my opinion is that we ought to keep cursive in schools. As I also tell my kids, “It’s good for your character.”

What do YOU think?