Pet Peeve #12: Cursive Writing

More like "end here with a frown"

Today I was filling out a form at work. I looked down at my handwriting–decent, readable, but not great–and thought, “Why did I have to learn how to write in cursive?”

In the adult world, is anything in cursive? Anything? Very little is handwritten these days, but if it is, it’s certainly not in cursive. The key to writing by hand is simply to write legibly. That’s the only important characteristic: Can someone read this?

I want that time back that I spent in school learning to write in cursive, dutifully tracing those letters one by one. I could have been learning Japanese in elementary school. Or how to type. Or shorthand. Or algebra. (If you can walk, you can calculate compound interest.)

I don’t know if they still teach cursive in schools. If so, I give it another 3-5 years before it disappears from the curriculum altogether. In fact, in the alternate universe on Fringe, people don’t write anything at all, print or cursive.

Do you ever use cursive?

21 Responses to “Pet Peeve #12: Cursive Writing”

  1. T-Mac says:

    The only thing that’s keeping cursive alive is signatures. Signatures aside, cursive writing is a dinosaur. I wholeheartedly agree that students could be using their time for something more practical and/or more useful in modern society.

    By the way, do you know any first graders? Do they still learn cursive? I’m pretty sure they do actually teach them to type at a much earlier age. (I learned in high school.) “Keyboarding” (as it was called) was the most valuable class I ever took. Hands down. Nothing else is even in the same ballpark.

    What other things should be stricken from our young people’s curriculums (or at least made into electives)?

  2. @JMJKDulce says:

    Whoa whoa whoa…I have to disagree. I think penmanship is a dying art, for sure. My goddaughter started learning cursive in second grade, so yes, it’s still taught. I don’t think legibility is enough. Handwriting tells a lot about a person, and people study handwriting for a living! Granted, learning cursive seems pointless in the computer age, but just like stamps aren’t going anywhere soon for Christmas cards, cursive won’t. In my day to day, cursive is actually faster for me. When I try to take notes in print, my letters run together anyway, so it’s a time saver for me. I also use cursive as my “Italics” in class. We need more pride in what can create with our hands! I wish I still received more handwritten mail than e-mails. Call me old-fashioned. Besides, calligraphers would be out of work if no one learned cursive. No one would be able to read it.

    • T-Mac says:

      While I still strongly agree with Jamey, I do think cursive is as valuable for the average American as, say, learning Italian or French. I still like the idea of making cursive an elective, but I think there are more widely applicable things that schools can do with their time.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Really? See, I agree that Italian or French aren’t all that useful to the average American. BUT, the act of learning a foreign language–especially at such a young age–is considerably more useful to a student than learning cursive. Learning a foreign language teaches your brain to be open to other languages and helps you reach a better understanding of all the aspects of your native language that you take for granted. So although a more useful language–perhaps Spanish or Chinese–could be taught, I think any foreign language could be useful.

        As for other subjects that could be dropped from the curriculum, I feel like there are a number of subjects that have little to no application to anyone outside of those very specific fields, but I’m not sure I would drop them. Take chemistry. Sure, I don’t need to know the elemental properties of hydrogen peroxide. But could the fundamental lessons of chemistry help me in other fields–the idea that this desk in front of me is actually composed of billions of tiny particles vibrating in unison? Perhaps.

        • @JMJKDulce says:

          That is another topic I feel strongly about. I think learning a language should be required starting in grade school. Bilingual people use more of their brain, and having a dual culture understanding makes people more understanding in ways. Not all people, but some people. If I had to choose between language and cursive, I would choose language, but you can’t have electives in grade school. Some of those kids can’t even tie their shoes! I know, I know, the parents will be choosing the electives. However, how do you deal with the fact that half of the parents shouldn’t be having kids in the first place? Just saying.

          • Jamey Stegmaier says:

            I totally agree about language. I guess it would be tough to make it an elective, so just make it required. As for parents having kids they shouldn’t, I completely agree. Kid’s aren’t a novelty. They’re a huge responsibility, and if you’re going to have one, you better be ready to raise him/her in the best way possible.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Hm…I don’t think I buy the “dying art” argument. I mean, just because taxidermy is a dying art doesn’t mean it should be taught to first graders. I agree with Trevor–it should be an elective.

      • @JMJKDulce says:

        LOL, handwriting is used every day. There’s no purpose to stuffing dead things on a daily basis. If cursive is only for signatures, then kids should just learn to sign their name. Though you’re inevitably going to have one genius who just signs with a mark of some kind later in life. Love those symbol signatures.

    • Ariel says:

      I much prefer ‘snail mail’ over e-mail and I regularly send hand written cards and letters. I also think that there is more to learning cursive than just making the letters for the purpose of communication. A lot of elementary school is teaching kids how to learn – how to follow directions and how to be responsible. Cursive is harder than print, so it requires more effort from the students. Also, a student who learns how to write cursive neatly is more likely to have legible handwriting as an adult – print or otherwise.

      Finally, while I think the general learning how to learn and how to think argument applies to many subjects, I would go a step further. YOU don’t use chemistry, Jamey, but I do. Children need a solid foundation in a wide variety of subjects including science, math, history, and civics. Instead of cutting school, let’s just make the school day longer – and heck, make it go year round. Perhaps following an increase in general education I won’t get undergraduate students who can’t form grammatically correct sentences.

  3. Christine says:

    I’d say my handwriting, and that of many other people’s, is kind s a combo between printing and cursive. Cursive is often faster to write so until people stop writing on paper entirely, I don’t think it’s obsolete.

    On the flip side, I’m a designer and designed a bunch of collateral last year for a client that had a vintage winery look and feel so it used an old fashioned, scripty font. I had to change it this year because the client got too many complaints from its sales force that they couldn’t read the type—it wasn’t difficult to read other than it was in cursive. So unfortunately, cursive is already dying among older adults already. I think it’s a sad development, but cursive will eventually die out entirely.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Interesting that people forget to read cursive, but it’s kind of true. I mean, how often do you read cursive writing?

      I agree that we all have our print/cursive hybrid writing, but I bet if you only taught print, people would still be able to write quickly (and would probably merge letters together anyone). If the point is to be able to write quickly, people are going to figure out how to do that on their own.

  4. Dionne says:

    All I have to say is “you rock” for using a Fringe reference!!!

  5. Harley says:

    Hi Jamey!

    I do actually write in cursive some. I think my hand writing is better. Another interesting note: at my son’s school, the started teaching him in first grade and I noticed his cursive writing was a lot neater than his print writing. I wonder if they’ve done studies. Or something. HUGS!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Interesting that your son’s cursive is neater than print. But the question is, if they just taught print and taught it well, wouldn’t that be just as neat? Why throw cursive into the mix?

  6. Blogstalker says:

    Coming from a teacher in a private school, letter recognition and keyboarding skills are taught starting in Kindergarten along with regular writing skills. Cursive is introduced at the end of first grade(tracing) and then focused on heavily in 2nd grade. The students are then allowed to choose how they wish to write starting in 3rd grade as long as the teachers can read it, which is basically like how the real world doesn’t care as long as it’s legible as you stated in your post. By 4th grade, most of the students’ papers are required to be typed and the only real reason for them to write on regular paper is to take notes or do quick in class work.
    Personally, my handwriting is this weird hybrid, some letters I write cursive and some I don’t and they all just get flopped together and somehow people can read my writing. It’s not all pretty and girly, but it gets the job done and it’s faster for me. You should have people send in samples of their writing, or maybe their regular and cursive writing and see which one of theirs is easier to read. You’re overdue for readers to participate in something.

  7. Blogstalker says:

    I was too, but maybe we should give up hope on that. Looks like you get off the hook for having to draw your own map drunk. Does it count if I force my friends/family/random people on the street to do one and then send them in?

  8. Tim Foster says:

    My 16 year old son was barely taught cursive in second grade, but never again. His printing is barely legible. It is all condensed into a single string of characters that one has to decipher into individual words. Barely any punctuation. He signs his name as individual printed characters that, ironically, are very spaced apart.

    To his credit, he can actually read cursive. However, I have met many other kids his age that can not.

    I think the author may be more irritated that his penmanship isn’t great. If he wrote elegantly, it could have been a source of pride. Proper penmanship is, after all, an art form.

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