Cursive: Valuable Skill or Pure Nostalgia?

On my Facebook site, a conservative blogger posted about how sad it is that cursive is not being taught anymore in many public schools.  Every single comment agreed with her.

I have a different take.  To me, the idea of our tax dollars going to teach 3rd graders a second, redundant way of writing that after 5th grade, they will almost never use is borderline insane.

I’ve heard several arguments, and none of them make any sense to me.

Q:”But how will our kids learn to sign their name?”

A: Typically, parents teach their kids to tie their shoes and ride their bike.  If these feats can be taught at home, I’m pretty sure signing ones name can too.  Furthermore, I’m not so sure signing ones name is all that important.  Most of the time we do it today is on a touch-screen machine that doesn’t really transmit our signatures very well anyway.  It is very possible we’ll use fingerprints or some other form of virtual signature by the time today’s 3rd graders are adults.

Q: “But how else will children develop their fine motor skills?”

A: Children already are taught penmanship and have art class to work on their motor skills.  Why is that not enough?  And if it is not enough, why stop at cursive?  If school is actually about developing fine motor skills rather than learning, maybe our children should go onto pursue Persian calligraphy in 4th grade and rice painting in 5th.

Q: “But I learned cursive growing up!  Shouldn’t every kid learn this?”

A: Sometime in the past, there was a generation of children that was the first to stop learning to write with ink and quill.  This was probably quite difficult and perhaps even somewhat traumatic for their parents , who had learned the right way to dip their quills as children, as did their parents and grandparents.  But I think we’d all agree (expect maybe those still hung up on the fine motor skills argument) that the fact we stopped teaching our children this is an okay thing.  I’d argue that today, in an era of e-mail, texting, instant messaging, voice recognition, etc. that we are in roughly the same place today with cursive.

Q: “Okay fine, I agree we don’t NEED to teach our children cursive, but I’d still like them to learn it.”

A: I have 2 options for you:  1) teach your children cursive on your own time, not at the expense of taxpayers 2) wait until American students return to being competitive in math and science… once that happens, perhaps we can reconsider cursive.  But  when our 3rd graders are struggling to understand why 3×5=15, we probably don’t need to waste any more time on over-curves and check-strokes.



  1. I have some of the worst cursive out there, but I think that it is a writing style that should be taught side-by-side with block print. There are still times when we need to take notes, and cursive is just quicker. Don’t waste time teaching perfect Palmer method, but do just make sure kids can recognize cursive when they see it. Kids’ brains are programmed to learn communicative skills at an early age. We should start teaching foreign languages in kindergarten, as well as cursive.

  2. As for math and science, skip the multiplication tables. We spent way too much time on those when I was in grammar school. Teach kids how to break up “difficult” math questions into simpler ones. E.g. we’ve probably all seen the TV commercial about solving 997×985 in our heads. It really isn’t that difficult. 1000*985=985,000. 985*x3 is the same as 3000-45. So 997*985 = 985,000-3000+45 = 982,045. Once kids understand the logic, there’s no need for rote memorization.

    Until that time, though, keep the borders open so we can import talent from India and China. They may not be any better at teaching math than we are, but there are 2.3 billion of them, so enough of them can figure it out and need jobs somewhere. Why not here?

  3. My three went to Catholic grade school and none of them can write in cursive.

    My penmanship is horrendous. As is my spelling now, thanks to perpetual spell check. 🙂

  4. jimspice says:

    My father had beautiful handwriting. Me? Haven’t written a letter in cursive, beyond my signature, in 30 years. My girls were not taught cursive, but think it is pretty, so they taught themselves. My older sister “forced” me to take typing as a freshman in highschool. An excellent move. Disappointed though that I didn’t take both semesters; I have to look down to type numbers and special characters. This summer, I’ll set the girls up with a keyboarding program to introduce the skill. Fluency is crucial in this language for the future.

  5. Randy in Richmond says:

    I’m probably older than most of you but I was taught Locker writing in elementary school. I’m sure I misspelled it but I’m glad I learned the basics of handwriting. Of course later I was required to take a semester of printing which I still mostly do. Very few guys took typing when I was young.

    Handwriting is presently a lost art–maybe it’ll make a comeback.

  6. Finally, something we agree on.

    One of the things that you might not realize if you haven’t grown up with computers your entire life is this: Cursive is only faster than printing if you actually use it on a regular basis.

    However, if you’re like most Americans under 28 or so, cursive is something you learn in third grade and then never use again, because you just go back to printing since it’s easier to read. When we actually take notes by hand (and a lot of people type on their laptops these days) we have a sort of “printing/cursive hybrid” that we use. If we were to try to use the cursive format that we learned in third grade it would actually slow us down because we’d have to put a lot of thought into how to form the letters, and we wouldn’t be able to pay nearly as much attention to the person who is speaking.

  7. MuskieGo says:

    I don’t have a problem with schools teaching cursive as an elective course. I would say that cursive is not very necessary for life under most circumstances. I think that the last time I wrote in cursive was when I took the ACT.

    Sure it is a fine skill to have but I would say that class time can be used better for other things.

  8. I think cursive writing has merit beyond the function of penmanship or use as a communication vehicle. I believe is an excellent skill to practice and acquire a fluid writing style because it trains the brain and hand to work together. It is a form of drawing, line-drawing, if you will.

    If you must banish cursive writing, you all, then at least promise to try to learn some other eye-hand brain activation technique. I think handwriting tells much about an individual, and is somewhat of a self-portrait. Line on paper is expressive, a basic artistic method. If no one uses it in the future, I think it is a loss. (I must be more ‘old-fashioned’ than I thought I was!) I KNOW I’m old-fashioned in that I really like receiving a hand-written note or letter, regardless of how neat and tidy the penmanship is. 🙂

  9. RL – I was really headed towards “dump cursive” until I read your comment. When you remind me the importance of eye-hand and the idea of line and spacial relationships, I instantly flash back to how blasted hard this skill was for 5th grade boys when my daughter played (practiced) at it for hours. Maybe it’s an art and should be taught as such?

    I love neat and tidy penmanship, too. Unfortunately, I’ve completely lost the skill to produce it. Even when I really try, it won’t happen anymore. It would take a lot to get back up to speed I’m afraid.

  10. KPOM. You’re post reminded me of Chismbop. My husband teaches math and has an unnerving capability to ‘do math’ in his head, and I remember adding faster through his method than the whiz-kids of the Chismbop era. His math processing is what you describe. I think that approach is great for teaching kids math skills and concepts. My husband walks our first-grade granddaughter home from school several days of the week, and they do math problems; when she gets here, I immerse her in Anything Art. 🙂

    Cindy, your comment on the difficult times for 5th grader penmanship brought back the same memories – particularly for my boys. 🙂 Freakishly, my daughter’s adult handwriting style- printing embellished with cursive – has morphed into a duplicate of mine. (And she has her dad’s math brain.)

  11. Oops *Your*. Not sure if that was me or ‘I think I know what your thinking’ autocorrect.

  12. I went through the Elmbrook School District, and I remember learning cursive in 3rd grade. We had instruction on it every day, and after we learned it, most of our assignments had to be in cursive. I absolutely hated it, and I’ve gained no real world experience from it.

    Luckily, after 3rd grade, I never was required to use it for a single assignment again. And a little secret: many secondary school teachers don’t even know how to write cursive.

    I sign my name in a creative manner, just like everyone else. You don’t need to know cursive to sign your name, just a slight bit of creativity.

  13. Andy Bonanno says:

    I disagree with the brain-hand coordination arguments, as well as the arguments that it is no longer needed. Anybody who can’t read cursive, can’t read the Declaration of Independence and other documents of historical significance.

    I was taught logarithms, science, history, and economics in school and I have hardly used them since. That doesn’t mean we should stop teaching them. It should still be taught.

    Whether one decides to continue using it is up to the individual. It can be significantly faster than printing and doesn’t have to be neat as long as you can read what you wrote. If students were able to write cursive, they wouldn’t spend so much time in college staring at the page to print each letter neatly next to and aligned with the previous one. They could pay more attention to the professors and still have their notes for studying later. That is if they’re not typing into a laptop.

    The argument that it isn’t necessary because you stopped using it is just plain laziness. Teach the subject and educate the adults of tomorrow. One day, these young adults will need these skills. None of them will need all the skills, but those skills should still be provided so that they have the tools necessary to prosper in their chosen life path.

  14. It will be a dismally boring visual world if a generation skips learning cursive writing which could eventually lead to eliminating script-style fonts in graphic design. A visually lyrical font breaks up the tedious look of press type and handprint-style fonts, and sets an entirely different tone of visual communication. ( Those fancy-schmancy formal invites will look less formal, be not quite so impressive to receive. ).