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The Death Of Cursive Handwriting

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Monday March 26, 2012 )

Thanks to the Internet, computers and smart phones, cursive writing is on its way out. A recent article challenged my opinion of the demise of cursive being a good thing.

I write very little by hand these days. Probably the longest document I grudgingly author with a pen is a shopping list – and only because I’m still not much chop on an iPhone keypad.

An article I read today (unfortunately I’ve lost the link) on the death of cursive and possible implications had me thinking back to my school days.

I learned cursive writing in the 1970’s in a strict school system where you were punished (sometimes harshly) for failing to attain a certain proficiency. I was not a natural at it, so I feared and loathed cursive writing lessons.

While I never attained the amazing writing skills of others; I could write clearly enough to avoid detention or the cane; although it was made pretty clear to me my efforts simply weren’t good enough.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything in pure cursive – it’s probably been a couple of decades at least. I was glad to be away from the cursive obsession when I entered the public school system in my early teens.

When I do hand-write these days, it’s a mixture of cursive and print, a style that would invoke the sisters of St. Jude’s to damn me to hell for eternity and to trigger a coronary in any of my early English teachers.

I just didn’t get the point of it – that aspect was never explained to me. The article shed some light – it stated cursive writing is a faster way to write.

What rubbish! Or so I thought.

The article made the point that in cursive writing, your pen doesn’t leave the page anywhere near as often.

Hmm. Food for thought.

I decided to give *real* cursive writing a whirl to see how much I still remember and to test the claim. I practiced by writing “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” about a dozen times as it contains all the letters of the alphabet.

While starting off a little wobbly, I improved as I went on – it’s amazing what we retain.

Then I timed myself with the same sentence on the keyboard, in cursive, in print and my own “hybrid” style.

Here are the results (average time)

Keyboard – 7.5 seconds
Pure cursive – 15.6 seconds
Print – 18.1 seconds
“Hybrid” style – 15.3 seconds

I was really surprised by how fast I could write in pure cursive compared to my own style, even after 20 years of not practicing the former. I think with a little effort, I could easily beat my “hybrid” time.

One of the points made in the article is that the loss of cursive skills can impact young ‘uns in exams – they aren’t able to write as much in a set time period.

Something else I’ve found is that handwriting generally can also impact on the flow and expression of ideas; so the slower the handwriting style, the worse this will be.

According to Wikipedia, only 15 percent of students wrote their SAT essay answers in cursive in 2006. I assume that number has dropped since then. Last year, Indiana and Hawaii announced that their schools will no longer have to teach cursive.

Looking at the cursive words I wrote stirred up a few emotions – nostalgia and loathing among them; but the most overwhelming aspect after going through this exercise is the realization of just how much things have changed in my time; particularly since the advent of the World Wide Web.

Perhaps I’ve finally turned into the “in my day” old fart I’ve always aspired to become, but maybe cursive is one of those things we need to hang onto in this high-tech, keyboard and keypad oriented society. Perhaps the learning of it also helps in learning other important skills as well.

Eh, we’ll probably just settle for using a cursive font via our keyboards instead to maintain the illusion of retaining the skill :).


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