An increasing number of elementary schools are dropping cursive from their curriculum, but some schools continue to teach the lost art. As computers and iPads become more common in the classroom, students are often taught typing skills at the expense of cursive. Printing letters is considered sufficient by most students and many educators, and cursive may be on its way out. But there may be a case for continuing to teach cursive.
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First of all, why is cursive given less of a priority in classrooms? Teachers are crunched for time as they prepare for standardized tests and given the choice, many choose typing and printing over the time-consuming task of teaching cursive. Time that used to be spent forming the loops and curves of cursive handwriting is now spent in computer labs, learning the layout of the keyboard and how to type quickly in this internet-driven information age.
If you asked the average child or young adult on the street today, the overwhelming majority would prefer to print or type something, instead of writing it in cursive. Most students were taught cursive in elementary school, around third grade, but were not forced to use it much beyond middle school/junior high. As a result, many students don’t learn it well and find the task time-consuming and laborious. In this age of rapid-fire text messages and emails, why should they care?
There is certainly a case for abandoning cursive altogether. Time marches on and technology evolves. Chalk boards make way for white boards. Fuzzy overhead projectors are replaced by electronic “smart boards” that are connected to the teacher’s computer screen. And since even our signatures are often given electronically these days, does cursive really have a place in the twenty-first century?
Most states have agreed to national curriculum standards that do not include cursive, and instead focus on typing, says Christina Hoag of the Associated Press. California is one of the few states to include a cursive requirement.
Why keep it? It helps with motor skills and coordination, and crafting a unique signature is a part of an individual’s identity. Despite the prevalence of typed materials, we are still judged by the neatness of our handwriting or printing. Cursive, when learned correctly, is faster than printing and can give kids an edge during the essay portions of standardized tests like the SAT. And in an age when there are countless cuts to arts and humanities programs, some kids may enjoy cursive as a creative outlet. While some teenagers and young adults may not have a need to write cursive, the ability to read cursive is still relevant, and can be a source of embarrassment for some people.
With less time in the classroom and more material to cover, it is no surprise that teachers find they must prioritize their activities. A time-honored, but increasingly obsolete, practice like cursive is an easy target to eliminate from the curriculum. It may be too soon to say that cursive is dead, but it may be soon enough.
John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
Associated Press/Yahoo News “Some States Preserve Penmanship Despite Tech Gains” by Christina Hoag: http://news.yahoo.com/states-preserve-penmanship-despite-tech-gains-190737500.html
Colorado Springs Gazette “Dying Art of Cursive Lingers in Some Classrooms” by Carol McGraw: http://www.gazette.com/articles/cursive-147482-dying-art.html#ixzz2DL2uadXD