Friday, April 29, 2011

On Handwriting

The New York Times had an interesting article about cursive handwriting on Wednesday: The Case for Cursive. Go read it. I'll wait. But if you hit the paywall, well, I'm sorry. And if you hit the paywall and really, really want to read it, email me and I'll send you the article!

Unsurprisingly, but apparently still newsworthy, the art of cursive handwriting is going down the drain as we all rely more and more on computers. In addition, the education system's current focus on standardized testing means that teachers are dedicating as much time as they can to topics covered by those tests, leaving very little time for handwriting classes.

I'm a little torn on how I feel about this. I remember being so excited about learning to write in cursive in second grade. And I remember being quite smug about how good my cursive was and the amount of praise I got from my second grade teacher for my handwriting. I continued to use cursive most of the time up until probably sometime in middle school. (I would give you an exact year, but sadly, my old yearbooks are stashed in my parents' house so I can't say for sure when I transitioned back to printing. Sad, right?) But since then? Printing all the way. And now that I'm not taking notes in class anymore, even my printing suffers on occasion.

Something about cursive still appeals to me though. It's pretty and fancy in a way that my printing will never be. And I like the fact that it looks a little old-fashioned to my modern sensibilities. And I chose to address all of our wedding invitations in cursive for both of those reasons and also because it felt proper to me--like my grandmother would have approved.

Despite the fact that I like the way it looks, it's not a skill that I need in everyday life, so I guess I'd be hard pressed to say that I think it's a terribly crucial skill for children to learn. The article does raise some interesting points though, particularly that kids who don't learn to write well in cursive have difficulty reading cursive, including important historical documents. This sounds a little crazy to me, until I remember that cursive writing looked like a mysterious secret code to me when I was in first grade. Will cursive handwriting become a skill that history students study in college in order to read primary sources?

Do you typically use cursive or printing? Do you think cursive is a skill that matters? Are you shrugging or appalled by the idea of the next generation not having cursive signatures?


  1. Funny that this was your post for today! I thought about the same article today in class when I looked down at my notes and realized I use cursive almost exclusively -- especially in academic note taking contexts. I find cursive to be significantly faster than printing, at least for me.

    It's also just habit for me. Once cursive was introduced in second grade you HAD to use it in all of your written work through middle school. I just got used to it. I will definitely teach it to my kids, but that's probably more because I am a typography/paper nerd. I'm probably one of the only people who wishes she was taught Palmer script in school instead of cursive.

  2. I am a printer all the way, in all CAPS of course. My cursive was never anything to be praised and it wasn't the expected form of writing in school.

    I will teach my kids cursive even if it's just to be able to read it.

  3. I think it's too bad that kids aren't learning to write well anymore. Your point about historical documents is a really interesting one. I wonder if I will make my kids learn cursive...

    ps. I am slightly amused that this is what you were doing today between sending me texts :) Love you guys.

  4. I'm sure it's only getting more widespread, but I don't really find this to be a new thing. The only time I ever used cursive in school was in the 3rd grade, and I am quite familiar with the struggle to write that statement on the SAT/GRE/LSAT!! My cursive looks like a 3rd grader's cursive.

    I wasn't praised for my writing as you were, but it was never bad enough to worry about either. But what I was praised for frequently was my fast typing skills. All in all, my typing has continued to serve me much better than cursive!

    Historical documents are a very interesting point, and I also agree that it's pretty and nice for formal occasions (thanks for writing the invitations since mine sucks!). I hope kids won't stop learning it entirely, but I do think classrom time has to be prioritized for skills that are more useful in everyday life.

  5. Well I had written a really long, detailed reply to all of your comments, but Blogger ate it and I just don't have the energy to retype it all. :( But thank you all of you for your discussion. I think it's really interesting to hear different people's opinions on this, though I'd also be really curious to hear if opinions vary a lot among those of older and younger generations.