Is cursive writing getting lost in school curriculum?

Amanda Pugsley

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I never thought I’d have one of those “back in my day” moments at age 20, but after talking with my high school aged sisters over the weekend, I found myself saying just that.  I picked them up at the local high school Saturday afternoon when they had finished their ACT test.  After catching me up on the types of information and questions they had on the test, they told me about verifying their contact information and reading through the honor code prior to taking the test.  To my surprise, my sister mentioned that the line on which students are to sign their name to signify their acceptance of the honor code no longer has to be strictly signed.  The proctor told my sister that printing one’s name on the line was acceptable, too, since many students did not know how to produce their own signatures.  My initial thought was, “So, you’re expecting a kid who can’t even sign their own name on a line to complete a standardized test to determine where they are going to college?” More power to you, incompetent writer.

Writing in cursive has been taught in schools for generations.  I can remember my grandpa talking about how he used to have to draw tiny circles close together and squiggly lines because the teachers wanted him to become comfortable with writing without picking up his pencil in order to prepare him to learn cursive.  I remember my days of practicing night after night with homework on the enlarged, three-line paper, erasing and rewriting until my work was sufficient.  As I learned cursive, it never appeared to be a weird form or lost art that I was being forced to learn.  It was simply the “adult writing” I had seen my parents do when they wrote notes to my teachers or signed checks.

These days, I feel like younger kids see cursive as an ancient art form.  Knowing how to write in cursive is still a needed skill, however.  What are these kids going to do when they sign their first check or medical release form?  How will they be able to read family heirlooms written by Grandma So-and-So in a cramped, cursive handwriting?  Is it really such an inconvenience for grade school teachers to have to work on cursive writing for a few weeks in the lesson plans?  I would argue that it is not.

Kids may not be benefitting from skipping a few lessons on cursive writing, but there may be one person who is benefitted by the move from cursive signatures to printing: identity thieves.  If you think that someone who spends their time attempting to replicate your signatures in order to make purchases under your name will have a harder time trying to copy a printed name instead of a signature, think again.  A person’s signature is unique and a special product of one’s handiwork.  A name written in print, that’s about as basic as it comes.

Would the phrase, “Can I have your John Hancock?” still have the same meaning if the man had simply printed his name on the Declaration?  Could paraphernalia signed by famous singers, athletes, or politicians still sell for exorbitant amounts of money if the name looked like it could have been forfeited by any person who knew how to print?  The fact that my proposed solution to this problem is simply to teach young children how to write in cursive after they have learned to print makes me wonder why the failure to carry out this simple action became a problem in the first place!  Cursive writing is an essential skill and continuing tradition.  Learn how to write in cursive, and don’t let cursive become a lost art.