I’m generally pretty happy whenever I get the opportunity to show off my Tablet PC, especially when my audience has never seen one before. It happened again Friday afternoon, and the expected “oohs” and “ahhs” filled the room. Usually I fold up my tablet so that the keyboard is hidden, and then I encourage onlookers to try writing in OneNote. Most people very quickly write “hello” or their name in block letters. On Friday however, someone wrote a sentence in cursive handwriting. I remarked that I simply can’t do cursive handwriting anymore, which led to a pretty interesting discussion.
Essentially we wondered aloud why cursive handwriting is still taught in elementary school. I remember learning it in grade three or so, but I simply can’t do it now. If I try, I really have to concentrate, and I just don’t remember what some of the letters are supposed to look like. The only thing I write in cursive these days is my name. The rest of the time I am either on the computer, or scribbling in my messy “print-writing” (where it’s mostly printing with a few letters connected). Why would anyone use cursive handwriting in this digital age? And if the answer to that is “pretty much no one,” then why do we still teach it?
The entry on Wikipedia provides just two reasons:
- Cursive is easier and faster once mastered. There is no need to constantly pick up the pencil point and put it down again.
- Cursive may be especially useful for certain students with learning disabilities such as dysgraphia because it has fewer letters that are mirror images of one another, such as the printed b and d, and so may be easier for students who are prone to mixing them up. In some schools, students with such learning challenges are taught cursive before print.
I think the first point is pretty much negated by typing, and the second point is only relevant for a relatively small number of individuals. I suppose another reason not mentioned on Wikipedia would be that cursive handwriting looks nice. My Mom’s handwriting, for example, is quite simply beautiful.
When you think about it, teaching cursive handwriting is really stupid. You generally can’t submit any assignments in junior high, high school, or post-secondary unless they are typed on a computer. What’s the point of learning it then?
Furthermore, I seem to recall that handwriting lessons took quite a bit of class time. Isn’t there something more useful we could be teaching children in place of handwriting?