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Let It Go, Boomers. Cursive Writing is Dead [OPINION]

ODV, GuidoVrola | both via Thinkstock
ODV, GuidoVrola | both via Thinkstock

Cursive writing has been trending up lately, with a few states mandating it as part of their educational curriculum, which has sparked a surprisingly fierce debate between generations over a practice that has largely wore out its usefulness.

A recent discussion I had with my stepfather about kids being taught cursive in school had me thinking about the bygone practice for the first time in years. Aside from my signature, I hardly ever write in cursive. I’m 36 years old, and have had little use for the once-revered writing style in my adult life, despite the fact that I do a lot of writing for work. However, while discussing the issue with my stepdad, it became very clear to me that there are people who care about it. And for some reason, they care a lot.

We were talking about whether or not my 8-year-old sons were going to learn cursive or not — I believe he brought it up, but I don’t recall — and he seemed very incensed at the fact that I didn’t know for sure, and also didn’t care much either way. I told him I believed it is a part of their curriculum, as their older sister learned it in the same school they now attend just a few years ago. I said something about it being “dead” and “that nobody uses it anymore.” Let’s just say he didn’t agree.

After reading a story about the resurgence of cursive writing in U.S. schools, I waded into the muckiest of swamps to get a read on the public opinion — the dreaded Facebook comment thread. Apparently, my stepfather is not the only only one who feels strongly about its importance. There was a surprising amount of disdain and venom for those who, like myself, don’t see the point in dedicating too much time to it.

I tried to filter out the hate and get to what, aside from nostalgia, the main points of their argument were. Why is cursive writing still a necessity in the digital age? Here are some of the most popular concerns about a future without cursive:

  • Kids won’t be able to sign their name on legal documents
  • Handwritten letters are important because of their sentimental value
  • How will kids read historical documents when they go to museums?
  • So kids can read the messages written in birthday cards from their elders

Okay, that last one was one of the more ridiculous points on the list, but it seemed like there were a lot of older folks who STRONGLY support cursive writing, without very strong reasons. There were also several people who said things like “they should of never stopped teaching it.” First of all, “should of” is not a thing. Perhaps all that time spent you spent learning cursive should’ve (not “should of”) been spent on spelling and grammar, but I digress.

I have to agree with the need for everyone to have a signature, but I don’t think you need to devote significant amounts of time to teaching this. Signatures, like all other analog arts  in the digital age, will fade in its usefulness over time. Contrary to popular belief, you can just write your name. Cursive does look classier, but there are no legal requirements for a signature to be written in cursive, as you can see from the legal definition of the term below:

“A mark or sign made by an individual on an instrument or document to signify knowledge, approval, acceptance, or obligation. The term signature is generally understood to mean the signing of a written document with one’s own hand. However, it is not critical that a signature actually be written by hand for it to be legally valid. It may, for example, be typewritten, engraved, or stamped.”

The other points people made were, for the most part, ridiculous. Cursive is not that much different in appearance from regular print. I highly doubt that historical documents, all of which are now transcribed in print, are illegible to those who aren’t well-versed in cursive. There are several important historical documents in Latin and other languages, but nobody is fiercely advocating for those to be a mandated part of the educational curriculum. Why? Because they’ve all been transcribed in print, and none of you are raising Indiana Jones.

Let’s get real for a second. The reason people, mostly older ones, are so upset about the idea that cursive is on its way out, is because they had to learn it in school. When they admit that a once important cornerstone of their education is now largely archaic, it feels like a concession that their way of life doesn’t have much usefulness in this new digital world. That’s not true. Change doesn’t invalidate our importance, and simplification isn’t necessarily laziness.

Nostalgia is cool and cursive is fun too look at. Beyond that — get over yourselves. There’s a lot more useful practices kids could be learning than cursive writing. That being said — I don’t oppose it. I kind of like the idea of my kids learning it. However, if it wasn’t part of the curriculum, I could always teach them myself or hire a tutor. Just because a school doesn’t offer something, that doesn’t mean they can never learn it.

…but that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

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