Should Cursive Be Part of Core School Curriculum?

cursiveYou likely spent hours and hours learning cursive in elementary school. But, in the digital age, where a majority of communicating is done via smartphone and computer, could all those hours of cursive learning be put to better use on something else?

According to The Christian Science Monitor seven states don’t think so and are fighting to return cursive to the core curriculum.

When the new Common Core educational standards (a set of preferred K-12 course offerings for public schools) were crafted, penmanship classes were dropped for some of the more obvious reasons: increased keyboard usage and the fact that most adults use their own hybrid of cursive and print in everyday life.

But at least seven of the 45 states that adopted the new educational standards are fighting to restore the cursive instruction. As The Christian Science Monitor notes, “California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah — have moved to keep the cursive requirement. Legislation passed in North Carolina and elsewhere couples cursive with memorization of multiplication tables as twin back to basics mandates.”

The states that adopted Common Core aren’t being forced to drop cursive, but when class time is limited, most are opting to let cursive slip from the standards.

There’s a lot of talk from cursive advocates about how cursive enhances hand-eye coordination and develops fine motor skills. Which, yeah, great, but so does playing video games. So that argument is lost on me. In fact, the argument for keeping cursive mandatory in the classroom feels outdated to me.

Full discloure: I’m left-handed and cursive was created for right-handed people. You’re meant to pull pen across the page in long, flowing strokes, not push it awkwardly. So cursive has never been my thing. And the whole argument about needing to sign your name is ridiculous as well. Millions of people, even ones who know cursive, use a hybrid of cursive and print to sign their name – basically, whatever works for them.

While I think cursive is lovely – when it’s not me doing the writing – that class time could be better spent on a slew of other important subjects. Could the basics of cursive be taught as part of an art class in school? That seems better suited to the world we’re living in now than mandatory cursive.

For kicks I asked some Facebook friends, including some parents from the Babble team here, what they think about cursive being mandatory. Here are some of the more interesting responses:

“My daughter is in 3rd and they are flirting with cursive a bit, but just for fun. I think it’s nice to teach a few fun lessons. But in the context of the modern era, cursive is almost better suited as part of an arts curriculum rather than an academic one. Except everybody still has to know how to sign their name.”Carolyn Castiglia

“It’s rarely if ever used and not a skill most will ever need. give up that and teach (more) art and music!”Anna Selden

“Removing cursive writing from the elementary school curriculum is contributing to the dumbing down of society. Next to go will be basic math (use a calculator, duh!) and spelling (why do I need to know how to spell when my device will autocorrect?). Aargh.”Sue Love

“As a professor without children, I agree with Anna. Sure, my college freshmen write like elementary school kids, but there are other things (art, critical thinking, analysis) that could be taught instead of cursive. Plus, how many adults even use cursive? I write in a hybrid of cursive and print.”Bartleby Farrell

“Cursive is unnecessary and a waste of time. I work in an accounting firm and all of the adult men write in cursive, as do our doctor clients. Their handwriting is almost impossible to read because they are very lazy with their cursive.”Grace Miller

“As a teacher, I will say it is more important to make time for language development and the art of writing rather than spending time on this. I work with students on the the fine motor skill of writing, but at some point we have to move on! My daughter struggles with handwriting, but loves to express her understanding and dreams, so we will work on keyboarding so she can go faster! And, yes to art class and tech tools for certain.”Sara Coleman

“Part of this is self-interest since I’m already getting college students who can’t read cursive (at least my cursive), but also because a person’s handwriting is a unique marker of his or her personality and thought process. My second grader wants to learn cursive and the third grade teachers at her school have decided to teach it though it was not an “official” part of the curriculum.”Al Maginnes

” I work with 4th graders and see how very hard it is for some of them to get it. It seems so outdated to me, way too flowery (some of the upper case letters I don’t even know what they are!) They teach “joined up writing” in the UK which I think is far better (well I would, wouldn’t I!) – it teaches kids how to write with speed and style, but isn’t nearly so outdated. So I’m pro an updated version of cursive.”Alison Moss

“Yes…if only for the sake of kids growing up and understanding how to read cursive handwriting. Cursive looks very different than print. What if they run across a handwritten love letter from their great grandfather to their great grandmother and weren’t able to read it because it was written in cursive? How tragic would it be?”Katy England

In the end, I think my fellow writer Sunny Chanel sums it up best, “Well, I think it’s cool and old school and all. But there is no reason why they should be teaching it. Our kids will be doing 90% of their written communication via computers/smartphones/iPads that they wont’ be putting pen to paper much at all anyways. But there is a certain joy that comes with writing a cursive letter L.”

Everyone should know the joy associated with swooping a letter L onto a piece of paper but it should be considered an elective or part of an art class, not mandatory.


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