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Is Cursive Making a Comeback? January 4, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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Anne Quito reported on Quartz about the possibility that more states will be adopting writing requirements that include learning cursive.  I read, now almost five years ago, in Wall Street Journal about how cursive instruction was being cut back or eliminated in several states.  Anne notes that at least a few states may be reversing that trend.

I am at the other side of spectrum of life, and have been removed from innovations in public school instruction for quite some time. But today I almost never write anything longhand, but I can sign my name.  And I can read the Declaration of Independence, which is one of the stated reasons for studying cursive.

Beyond that, I don’t have a lot of skin in the game, but I find it fascinating that such a cultural icon as cursive may be struggling for survival. More so, I wonder what we may be losing if we lose cursive.  That may be a biased question, in that I am assuming we are losing something.  Others may be a bit more sanguine about the whole thing.

Are we losing the ability to read, in the original, significant writings of the past? It’s not clear to me that not writing in cursive is the same thing as not being able to read it, but if it is, yes, we are losing something tangible.

Less tangible, but every bit as real, is that we generally consider handwritten notes more personal and heartfelt than an electronic equivalent.

What’s even less clear is what we are gaining. The Wall Street Journal article from several years ago reported that the state of Indiana was going to stop teaching cursive, in favor of teaching typing.  Really?  I don’t mean to sound incredulous, well, yes I do.  I realize there are certain skills involved (mainly motor skills that do not well relate to cursive), but I learned typing in about a semester of 50-minute classes, well enough to still do about 40 words a minute.

In 1958, the late great Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about world that had used only calculators for hundreds of years, and a man who knew how to perform arithmetic longhand.  The man was looked upon as a savant, and it gave him, as the title notes, “A Feeling of Power.”

Someday, somewhere, someone who can read historical documents may well have the same feeling.

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