Cursive Writing Removed From School Curriculum. It’s About Time!

Cursive writing is totally old-school. Literally. The state of Indiana has changed its academic standards and guess what? The 2011-12 curriculum does not include cursive writing (students are instead expected to become efficient in keyboard use). What’s amazing isn’t that cursive is becoming obsolete but rather that people actually care.

“But how will kids develop fine-motor skills?” ask those in favor of the ancient craft. “What if someone has to read the Constitution?” I’m no psychic, but I’m pretty sure that someone out there will have developed a computer program that ‘translates’ cursive writing into type by the time the cursive generation dies off.

And, pardon my ignorance, but hasn’t cursive writing been kind of irrelevant for, oh, I don’t know, at least a decade or so anyway? Don’t get me wrong: as a child of the 70s and 80s, I learned both cursive and printing. But to this day, I’ve only ever printed (when not typing, that is, which is 99 percent of the time). And I’m hard-pressed to find a single person in my age range who uses cursive. In fact, I recently searched through my old high-school yearbooks, camp letters, journal entries – you know, all that awesome nostalgic stuff – and I cannot find a single instance of cursive. (“I could give a shit about cursive or writing at all! Who needs it?” a friend just emailed me when I asked for her opinion on the matter.)

My mother, on the other hand, is all about cursive (I’ve got decades’ worth of birthday cards to prove it). As is my mother-in-law and my great aunt Eva. But they are a different generation and, well, they didn’t have the option of typing out their student essays or texting their friends for Friday-night plans.

Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe that kids need to learn how to write. But cursive? It’s about as relevant as Latin. As Jen Doll at The Village Voice so aptly puts it:

“…cursive sucks! And, in our modern day keyboard- and smartphone-focused lifestyles, we simply don’t need it. Like the vestigial tails of our evolutionary youth, holding a pen or pencil, writing on those reminders of tree death we call ‘paper,’ forming the odd curlicue letters that are harder to comprehend than an especially difficult CAPTCHA when all you want to do is buy the freaking LCD Soundsystem tickets, is simply not important now. Cursive abilities have fled from our human forms because, it seems, we no longer need them. Except for signing our names on bills and stuff, which is really just putting a pen in a fist and swirling it around a bit on something flat. And who knows how long that fun will last?”

With regards to signatures, even that is changing rapidly. In fact, I recently “signed” a formal legal document online (all I had to do was type my name into an “electronic signature solution” program and it suddenly appeared in cursive font, which I thought was kind of neat. Then I hit “apply” and the deed was done). So there you have it. It was fun while it lasted but so long, cursive. See you never.


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  • Amy

    Cursive writing has become purely aesthetic, it is pretty pointless and I say that as someone who writes in cursive. I’ve tried regular printing, doesn’t stick and I just slip back into joined letters. I’m 19 so perhaps I disprove the ‘totally out of date’ theory a little, though it is still taught in schools here in Ireland. Also, whenever anyone sees me write, they compliment how nice it looks. /ramble.

  • Kate

    Statistically speaking, students who write in cursive score an average of 200 points higher on the SAT II.

    I recently spoke with a former student of mine who has just graduated from a prestigious university and she told me that during her job application process, she was asked to cursive write a letter of introduction. Several other applicants had never learned cursive and were forced to print, which meant they forfeited that section of the application.

    In most other countries, learned people are expected to read print and write in cursive still today. The US can limit what it wants, but I think it is rather short-sighted to eliminate something as basic as writing from curricula. Why not eliminate multiplication? We all have calculators too.


    • schkfrldn

      well said.

    • Tim

      And the calculator has led to an inability to add/subtract/multiply/divide without the calculator in hand!

  • Kate Gladstone

    I checked that “200 points” urban legend by calling the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which makes the SAT II and other similar tests. ETS saidmit’s one of their most misquoted statistics of all time: the actual difference is about 0.002 points (which apparently doesn’t please people who’d like it to be bigger).

    Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter? 

    Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. Possibly relevant: very few countries outside the USA teach what the USA and Canada typically teach as a “cursive” way of writing. In the UK, Australia, and almost all other English-speaking nations, for instance, what is taught as “cursive” or “joined-up writing” is usually semi-joined and/or with print-like letter-shapes as described above.)

    Reading cursive of any kind still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

    Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

    Kate Gladstone — CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    Director, the World Handwriting Contest
    Co-Designer, BETTER LETTERS handwriting trainer app for iPhone/iPad

    • schkfrldn

      i learned cursive and printing concurrently and, to this day, find writing in cursive both easier and faster. also, most countries which use the roman alphabet teach cursive writing and most inhabitants of these countries use cursive writing exclusively. in france, for example, hand-written school work is not even graded unless written in cursive. it’s not just a style of writing, it’s a way of life.

  • Shane

    As per my spouse, “Of course it matters! Kids are going to grow up writing their name in a bastardization of cursive and print…and look like a 3rd grader signed his or her name when it’s actually a 30 year old!”

  • Emily Moorhouse

    I never really got the hang of cursive writing in elementary school and I have definitely not used it since. With how much work and time kids and adults are spending on computers and digital technology I feel printing is really the only form of hand writing necessary. Printing is way easier to read! But then again, I’m only in my 20′s.

  • Blinkie

    How in the name of Emma Watson is anyone going to sign a cheque without cursive?

    Can I just say that I love the first line of this story?

    Cursive writing is totally old-school. Literally.

  • Dori

    Writing in cursive is quicker than writing in print, which I thought was part of the point. As an adult, my handwriting is a real mixture of cursive and print and I am so happy to be able to write in a way that feels comfortable (and fast) for me.

    Although I suppose students take standardized tests on computer screens now. No more blue booklets.

    Sad either way.

  • Eileen

    I’m 22, and I’ve written in cursive since second grade and by choice since fifth grade. It’s faster and easier – and I’ve had everyone from university professors to the girl marking my March Madness bracket comment that I have really attractive handwriting. Most people I know can write in either cursive or print but generally choose cursive.

    By the way, there’s no longer any such thing as the “SAT II,” and there hasn’t been since 2005. There’s now the SAT Reasoning (formerly the SAT I, which now includes an essay) and the SAT Subject Tests (formerly the SAT IIs, which do not include essays, now that the subject test in writing has been discontinued). But for the record, I wrote my essay in cursive and scored a 790/800 on the writing section back in 2006.

  • Jen

    I used to totally agree with this position, but there’s now good evidence that handwriting has cognitive benefits. See this article:
    Cursive itself is probably not important, but writing things by hand may well be.

  • Gene L. Ditsler

    Cursive shall never die. It’s like basketball. We are nothing without it!!!!

  • BC

    The dumbing down of Indiana…..What’s next? American History, Math, Science? Another Dumb Liberal Idea, it really doesn’t matter in the public school system; they graduate without being able to read and write anyway.

    • Lindsay Cross

      First of all, as a resident of Indiana, I feel obligated to tell you that it’s not a very liberal state. In fact, everything in the state government is Republican-controlled. So none of this is a really a “Liberal Idea”. The revamping of the school curriculum was initiated by our Republican governor, Mitch Daniels. (I’m saying this is hid fault either. It’s ridiculous to suggest that either liberals or conversatives are solely responsible for changing the curriculum. Educators adapt their curriculum to try to fit the current needs of their students. Whether they are making the right decision here is obviously debatable. Personally, I like cursive.)

      And secondly, I graduated from an Indiana public high school. It is currently ranked in Newsweek’s Best High Schools. And I’m very proud of the education that I received there.

    • Lindsay Cross


  • Heather

    I must admit, my feelings about the subject are a bit mixed. Born and raised in America, I learned cursive writing and didn’t really struggle with it but I believe that’s due to how it was taught. Now living in England, my son, who is in Year 1 and aged 6, really struggles with his ‘joined up’ writing. The children do not sit at desks and all form the same letter simultaneously so the teacher can see who has mastered it and who hasn’t; rather, they sit on the floor with white ‘wipe clean’ boards, the teacher says a word and they all spell it. It isn’t checked whether they spell it correctly or not, just that they’ve done it. Also, given that just last year the children were taught how to print their letters I feel being taught cursive writing the next year is simply pushing them too much too soon. I see no reason why emphasis should not be on clear, correctly formed letters and spelling before moving on the cursive. It has nothing to do with fine motor skills; printing gives them plenty of practice.

    So I guess through my ramblings that I am saying that I think it should still be taught in schools provided it doesn’t take up too much time and is taught properly in the first place. It is completely unfair to say that it’s ‘dumbing down’ education and that Indiana in particular is a ‘liberal’, misguided state. Other US states are following suit. Personally, I think there are far too many adults who have yet to master the ‘your’ ‘you’re’ and ‘to’ ‘too’ idea to focus too much on the loss of cursive writing!

  • Kassie

    what about signing legal documents and other papers that require signitures. And realy do we need the bad language .

  • Bonnie

    I’m still in school and this scares me.

    Will I not be able to get a job after kids who grew up learning only keyboards graduate? Because I’m not trained in technology?

    I learned cursive, to sew, to cook, to print, to fix my own car, and now the world changes?

    What will happen to the SAT’s? You have to write a paragraph in cursive.
    And what about people’s signature? No offense, but print is pretty easy to forge.

    I’m all for technology and whatnot, it’s a great time saver, but personally I feel we shouldn’t be given the privilege of technology until we know how to do it ourselves.

    Spelling: People should know how to spell and not just use spell-check.
    Math: People should be having the answers appear on their calculator by magic, they should be able to understand the formula they put in.

    I just hope that through all of these new advancements, that people are still able to remember the simple things in life. That they stay self-reliant.

  • Andrei

    Old school? The USA and Canada are the only countries in the world that do not use cursive handwriting. All the countries in Europe, Latin America, Australia, and other countries that use the Latin alphabet write cursive!! It’s not old school at all!

  • shoba

    I feel the choice should be child’s and not the parent’s or the teacher’s or the anyone else. Having said that how to know which suits the child better. I think the kids should be exposed to both and given the choice to write in whichever method they like. I never learnt to write cursive in school. But I can’t write long hours as my fingers hurt badly after writing a while and so I learnt to try cursive and it helped a bit to finish faster. I love both print and cursive. My kids showed difficulties when starting to write. They mirror write and I found with my elder child it was easily solved by cursive writing. She never reversed when writing cursive and it was a eureka moment for me. My second child has the same difficulty but he doesn’t like curisve, so I don’t force him but slowly help him to come out of reversal. Both kids do not have any other issues and my daughter gets above average marks. In this situation her history teacher has told her she can’t write in cursive She is in year 6 of UK system in Malaysia, and Malaysian schools don’t practise cursive. She feels so broken, her handwriting is very beautiful and not to say the teacher can’t read it and so I feel it is ridiculous to push the child to print instead of asking her to continue with what she comfortably present herself. It is really hurting when someone just wants to generalise things as this and make it a rule for everyone.

  • Kevin

    I just brought this up with my sons 5th grade teacher- and have to say- kinda shocked we’ve accepted that our future- and past will all be converted to digital images, pdf’s, computer generated view it any way we like documents. I totally agree that in the real world, we use computers, calculators, hardly write letters any more…. but not always. When it comes to remembering the past, not too long ago, we have letters we’ve saved, yearbooks we signed but I can never sit down with my last child and let him read the funny comments on my yearbook- written in cursive, or go to Washington and see the actual Declaration of Independence, or any historical document for that matter- but again, also personal letters in our family that Grandma wrote to Grandpa… how sweet they were… but unless I scan it to my computer, have it covert this into the printed word… really? I was showing my son a letter his mom wrote to me right before we got married… he couldn’t read it. How can you say we don’t need to teach it? How proficient can they be in using a number 2 pencil, fill in the circle on the state CRCT tests? How about a class for that?? All my kids have taken “typing”, as a skill so they are not hen peckers on a keyboard like 60% of the population is with their poor 2 finger typing but no- typing means a type writer. It’s a keyboard! Which will be replaced completely by voice activation or recognition- so what the heck, why teach how to use a keyboard? They’ll figure it out. Just the fundamentals of reading, writing, math. Shouldn’t put tons of effort to it in class, but I certainly want my kids, and their kids to be able to read and write cursive when we have that day that all computers crash- and nobody will be able to communicate. We still teach long division by hand. When was the last time you divided 5 numbers without a calculator? Long time! But we teach it. At least cursive, they can read old family history, American history, World history. Let’s don’t take that away. They are computerized enough!!!

  • Rose

    This explains why our school gets applications from prospective English teachers from America who can’t sign their names.I might add they are often also unable to spell and when asked to present themselves in suitable attire show up in in jeans with their cap on backwards.
    American university degrees, once considered a guarantee of a well educated applicant, are no longer worth the paper they are printed on.

  • Sue Ferrari

    I am a Montessori teacher who has been teaching cursive to 3-6 year-olds successfully for 3 decades. My students learn to write in cursive and read in print with ease, just like children throughout the world who share our alphabet. The US and Canada are the exception. We as a nation are turning away from cursive because cursive isn’t taught until 3rd or 4th grade. At that age children have already started writing their compositions using computer programs.

    Unfortunately, many children are no longer getting proper instruction in the formation of manuscript letters in their schools. Consequently, children are writing free-style with a mixture of upper and lower case letters, little attention to neatness, spacing, staying on lines and consistency of size and shape. And I want even begin to talk about spelling, grammar and punctuation! I’ve received notes of thanks from new brides and college grads in recent years that made me question their literacy.

    Consequently, handwriting, both cursive and manuscript, are being tossed aside. Before long our culture will be completely enslaved to our devices to communicate. Maria Montessori said over a hundred years ago, ” The hand is the instrument of the intelligence.” I believe that holds true today.

  • Joshua

    Hey I’m 15 year old and live in Australia I write in cursive and I think people should have a choice if they would like writing in it and be tought both but not many people write it at school and most can’t read it lol at leat they can’t copy me in test hahaha

  • Red

    It’s a shame that you didn’t provide a balanced, thoughtful argument for your position. But thankfully the various posters below did. Long live cursive – and long live deeper, more meaningful thought and communication.

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  • nesh

    cursive is way more efficient than “printing” you should try it some time. and maybe even think about working on your hand writing i bet you write like shit.

  • Sarah

    Whether cursive writing is considered a tool or an art is almost irrelevant. It is a dialect, a form of communication that we have been using for hundreds of years and by removing it from schools is simply – a loss. Not only do we lose a method of communication, but we lose a part of our history and we lose an art form, a method of self-expression. For how long have people been analyzing cursive writing to help define an individual. Think about your signature, what does it say about you…and how do you use it to say something? As we become more dependent on technology our approach will certainly be ever changing – but living in a future world like the one described in WALL-E with the additional loss of our languages is just a sad description of what we could become. By being okay, or happy, with any loss of a language, culture, or form of communication describes a lot about who you are and perhaps should force you to reflect on what else you would be okay with eliminating…

  • CursiveWritingIsCool

    Definitely a one-sided argument in the article, not worth the digital *paper* it was “printed” on xD
    For the writer of the article, even if you can and sometimes have to provide a “signature” by typing it into a form, there will still be times when say a paper check or other form of printed document requires a signature not a printed name to make it valid.
    Frankly of all the arguments for or against cursive writing, it is like most other SKILLS, if you possess it, you’re a step AHEAD of those which do not.

  • doofuses

    the writer of this article is a friggin idiot,.

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