More and more school districts across the country are forgoing the teaching of cursive writing in the classroom (presumably to give kids yet more time to practice for standardized tests). We can understand where districts are coming from — who uses cursive writing as much as they print these days? So much of writing is done by keyboard, after all. Aren't we better off teaching kids how to type properly? Yes , we should be teaching typing, too, but not in place of cursive.
Polling a few of my favorite public elementary school teachers from across the west coast, here's a sampling of reasons why we should continue to teach kids how to read and write in cursive.
1. Learning for learning's sake.
We have a bad habit as a culture of wanting everything to be test and assessment ready. We now send kids to college programs that aspire to job placement (even when there might not be jobs to be had) but offer little in the way of critical thinking. Why not learn something because it should be learned? Why does everything have to have a monetary reason or result? Isn't that what has India and China beating us academically in the first place?
2. It's an art form with a long rich history.
Teach cursive writing in the context of art. Balance that with a history of eastern traditions of calligraphy, and voila! You have some solid curriculum in cross-cultural studies.
3. Helps with their printing and alphabet memorization.
Elementary school teachers attest to students often having trouble with the same letters since pre-school. Introducing another writing form gives them the same leg up on printing as foreign language does with English-grammar learning for native born speakers. It reinforces their learning.
4. Develops motor skills.
For students ages 7 and 8 in particular, cursive writing helps develops motor skills further — which is especially good when those skills are something they've been having trouble with in the first place.
5. Cursive writing is a good break for kids with dyslexia.
The "b" and "d," for example, look nearly identical in printing — but not so in cursive. By relying exclusively on print, we have fewer tools at our disposal for reaching children with learning disabilities (which account for a whopping 1 out of 10 kids).
6. There are so few traditions left to our children that are hold-overs from an earlier age.
By not having students learn cursive, the older generation is hoarding knowledge and keeping a rich history from them. The art of letter writing already sits so precariously on the threshold of extinction that our Congress talks seriously about cutting out the post office. Will students need translator apps to be able to read historical documents on their iPads? Can't we just cut out the technological enabling and just teach them how to read it?
7. Finally, it comes down to the grandparents and great-grandparents.
How many times over the years will your kids receive a birthday or Christmas card with the traditional $5 to $20 bills tucked inside from Grandma? How many times will your child hand over the card to you and ask you to read it because cursive seems like a foreign language in code? Grandparents already feel alienated from contemporary culture through their scary apprehensive acceptance of all things technological in their households. Help foster better communication between the generations and lobby for cursive!
Will we survive as a culture without it? We might. But cursive writing might become another one of those subjects in school that rich districts have and poor ones don't. Remaining silent as it gets kicked out of curriculum in middle class and working class districts around the U.S. means one more way to widen the class divide in America.