Should we continue teaching cursive writing?

How long should we keep teaching cursive writing? That's a question many have asked on Twitter. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

When teachers tell students to take notes, most of them whip out an iPad, laptop, or maybe even their phone. Some still use old fashioned ink and paper, but the more times goes on, the less we'll use paper in the classroom and in society as a whole. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. The more we switch to electronics, the more paper we save and the less waste we have. It also makes accessing information far more convenient when it's stored online rather than in a physical item (such as a journal) that can only be viewed when you're in the same location as that item. Technology has also made collaboration and editing easier. And, let's face it, it's easier to read (most) computer fonts than it is our own handwriting, no matter how neat. Even the most careful hand could smudge the ink or led scribbled across a piece of paper.

There are some drawbacks though. People tend to remember things better when they write them down (not typing, but using the old-fashioned ink and pen). Students from low-income schools and houses are also struggling to catch up as they can't access the same tech tools more affluent people can, making the wedge between them even bigger. However, there's another issue too. What happens to cursive writing in a day and age when even non-cursive handwriting is going out of style? And, should we worry about it?

We Are Teachers posted a humorous picture about this, which you can see below. The joke relies on the fact that fewer and fewer people are being taught how to write in cursive. While it's unlikely that there will come a day and age in our lifetime that no one can read cursive handwriting, there might come a day rather soon that the majority of people can't. The question is, is this even a problem?

teaching cursive writing

We should continue teaching cursive writing in schools. We can find the reason why by looking at a similar problem math teachers face. There probably isn't a math teacher in the civilized world who hasn't been asked, “why can't I just do it on my calculator?” On the surface, it makes sense to just plug the formula in and hit the magic button that gives you the answer. The teacher's answer is usually the same, “you have to understand how it works” or “you have to know the basics.” When it comes to arguing for cursive writing, there's a slight difference. You don't have to understand cursive writing to know how to write a resume or read and understand Crime and Punishment, but you do have to know how to read and write it if you want to understand countless original documents.

Can you imagine looking at the Declaration of Independence and not being able to read a word of it? That could happen to our younger generations if we don't teach them cursive? Don't think that's important? After all, the important documents are posted in countless places in easy-to-read fonts. But did you know this? The debate over the right to carry arms in the United States of America all comes down to if a mark on the original second amendment is a smudge or a comma. That's right. All of that talk about gun rights boils down to a single comma (talk about the power of grammar, right?). If you couldn't read cursive, you'd have to rely on other people to interpret documents that could have a significant impact on your life.

In the past, governments have completely rewritten history to suit their propaganda. While it seems unlikely something that extreme could happen, it would become much easier if no one could read the original documents. But don't let scare tactics sway you. Even without having to raise big Orwellian ideas, it still just makes sense to teach cursive writing. If you don't know the past, you can't correct those mistakes in the future. And knowing the past is a LOT harder when you can't read anything from it and have to rely on translations or transcriptions. And not every document written in cursive is as readily available as something as important as the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution and its amendments. But most importantly of all, you don't want to be the one who can't read the cursive insults on the bathroom stall wall, do you?

What do you think? Is cursive writing obsolete? Why? Or do you think we should continue teaching cursive writing? Why?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at SimpleK12.com. She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to editor@simplek12.com.