Why Are We Still Teaching Cursive In Schools?

Today we cleaned out my husband's office, which was piled high in sales brochures, paperwork and bags of various sizes. In this office cleansing process, I came across the journal that I brought with me to write down the details of my first International trip to England my family took when I was 11 years old.

I was surprised to see my journal written all in cursive handwriting, a seemingly dying art form for the written word. When I actually have to, gasp, get a writing tool and use it on paper rather than typing into my computer or phone, I write in regular print instead of cursive.

After seeing the romantic loopy longhand penmanship in my 30-year-old journal, I was inspired to see what my cursive writing looked like today. As I attempted cursive, my hands felt frozen as if the muscles could no longer make those letters loop in a continuous form on the page. I could not seem to string those beautiful slanted and circular letters together, which is when I realized that cursive writing is not like riding a bike; you must continue to practice the art form or you will lose your ability to do it well.

I asked my daughter, who is now the same age I was when I wrote the travel journal in cursive if she knew how to write in cursive. She did, she said. Most schools are directed to teach children to write in cursive in third grade, although the Common Core standard of education does not include any teachings on the old cursive penmanship.

I asked my daughter to show me her cursive handwriting. Her pencil strokes were slow and meticulous, yet she put an extra hump in the letter "m" and her cursive seemed overly loopy. It was obvious that my daughter was not very good at writing cursive since she had learned the skill two years before and probably hasn't written in it since.

In the technology era where computers in schools and homes are the new normal, why are we still teaching children to write cursive? Should it be left behind to generations past, or should we keep teaching it in schools even though it does not get used in practical life?

Years from now someone may come across a manuscript written in cursive and liken it to an ancient form of communication like seeing hieroglyphics on a cave wall.

The argument for cursive is that it is a long-held tradition that teaches fine motor skills. One fascinating point that has been made in favor of teaching cursive is that the Constitution of the United States is written in English so perhaps people whose brains have been bogged down in typeface and fonts will not even be able to read the Constitution document that is written in cursive.

The article, As Cursive Fades, Coding In School Gains Momentum, talks about a week-long national campaign called "Hour Of Code" where children are taught computer programming tutorials.

"An hour spent teaching cursive is an hour spent not teaching something that will actually be relevant to children's lives -- like computer education, a subject that is severely underserved in today's schools. Think about an eight-year old's future: What is his or her future boss going to be more impressed by, the ability to write cursive or to code?" says Keith Wagstaff, a writer for The Week magazine.

A compelling argument can be made that computer programming skills will be essential in the global job market, whereas being taught to write in cursive is no longer relevant to the needs of our culture.

Megan Woolsey is co-editor of Multiples Illuminated. You can find out more by visiting meganwoolsey.com.