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The Question of Cursive

Should the traditional form of writing remain in the curriculum of local schools?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about teaching cursive in the schools.  Some parents and teachers believe that traditional cursive is an important part of students’ education while others feel that it is out of date and simply doesn’t have a place in today’s schools.

At the risk of offending many traditionalists including, I might add, my own mom, I have to admit that I, too, feel like cursive has run out of time in our education system. 

Now, I need to make clear that it’s not that I don’t value tradition or even that I don’t appreciate the beauty of cursive versus printing.  Yes, cursive is beautiful and, yes, at one time it was an important skill in society. 

Fact of the matter is, however, that in today’s society cursive simply doesn’t have much use. Technology has grown, priorities have changed and, much like the typewriter, cursive is rapidly being pushed completely out of the picture. 

When my son was in the third grade I, like many other moms, found myself struggling to remember the ins and out of cursive.  Aside from signing my name which usually amounts to nothing more than a few undecipherable scribbles, I had not attempted to use cursive since junior high school.

It didn’t take long to discover that, like his mother, my son has no real skill for making letters look pretty and third grade proved to be a very stressful school year.  Suddenly, spelling tests and sentences were required to be done in cursive and, what used to be one of his best subjects became pure torture. 

Homework took hours and consisted of countless “breaks” to rest both his hand and his head.  At the same time I noticed that his printing became worse and worse and all of his work became messier by the minute. There simply wasn’t a lot of happiness in our home that year.

Needless to say, he eventually came to terms with cursive and, yes, we did both survive the third grade.  So, after months of stress, did all of his hard work pay off?  Sad to say but, in the long run, it absolutely did not.

A few fourth grade assignments used cursive but, by the time he entered the fifth grade, it was never to be seen again. Now, a sixth grader, he hasn’t used cursive in a couple of years and I think it’s safe to say that he, like me, has forgotten all but the basics. Many assignments are done on his laptop and keyboarding is, perhaps, the most valuable skill he has.

Gone are the days when “letter writing” was considered a valuable and creative skill. Yes, communication is still important, but handwritten letters and notes have long since been replaced by emails and, yes, even text messages.

Do I completely agree that text messages are the right way to go? Probably not. But at the same time, I know that students need to keep up with technology and remain ahead of the curve at all times.

I’m a firm believer that students need to work hard and learn to face every challenge that comes their way but, in the case of cursive, I feel that the stress simply isn’t worth it. 

In a world rules by laptops, computer tablets and smart phones students need to spend their time mastering technology and preparing for the future not reliving the past.

Bonnie Friedman February 12, 2012 at 05:25 AM
It's a nice skill to have, but far less important than many, many other ones. I liked learning and wish I liked to use it more and make pretty handwriting, but like the author, I gave up using it for anything other than my signature, in 6th grade. If something has to go, then this is a good contender. Chenery had also given up on teaching typing and basic computer skills earlier this year. Fortunately parents complained, and it's back! Teaching good typing and basic skills around a computer seems SO much more useful in today's society.

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