Teaching cursive outdated

April 25, 2019 — by Leo Cao

Despite having been taught for decades, cursive is dying. A very small proportion of the adult population uses cursive in their day-to-day writing. Nevertheless, some yearn for the “good old days” when elementary schools taught “the basics,” which often included cursive.

The truth is, we have moved into the 21st century. Most of our writing and communication is electronic. Insisting on teaching using cursive is comparable to asking the textile industry to return to the “Spinning Jenny,” or forcing people with washing machines to wash their clothes by hand.

No one would even consider these ideas, so why would people push for a focus on teaching cursive in schools?

There are obviously foundational skills about our language that students should learn. In order to communicate more effectively, we need to understand the conventions of grammar and spelling. More importantly, we need some form of penmanship, but there is simply no need to teach both print and cursive.

Most students learn cursive in elementary school, after they have some mastery of print. This means that when “learning” cursive, they are simply copying letters and patterns over and over again, which does not seem like an effective use of academic time.

Criticisms of student handwriting center on an alleged lack of ability to write neatly in test situations as well as everyday life. Teachers often require students to write exams in pen, and then lament some of the students’ illegible handwriting. Since students can write more quickly and legibly — and probably better — using a keyboard, why not allow students to use laptops for their tests?

In today’s society, beautiful handwriting is unnecessary. Rather, typing is the key to a multitude of jobs. From banks to travel agents to retailers, most companies require proficiency in technology for even the lowest skilled workers. An adept typist can communicate information much more quickly than someone writing, and companies are searching for these people to maintain their online presence.

Additionally, typing is less error-prone than handwriting. When a student makes a mistake, they can easily delete or undo.

Students in the 21st century should be given opportunities to write, to create narratives using their pens, pencils and keyboards. This will enable them to become more fluent in both formats.

What they do not need is endless, mindless cursive practice. Writing with pen and paper is still important, but it is unnecessary to devote precious class time to such an archaic device.


Handwriting matters: does cursive matter? Research shows that legible cursive averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources are available on request.) The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too. Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds —once they read ordinary print. Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Ask any attorney!)  Mandating cursive to save handwriting is like mandating top hats and crinolines to save clothes. Kate Gladstone DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com handwritingrepair@gmail.com

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