Getting over cursive

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 04:58 PM

The fight to continue teaching children cursive writing slogs on, and it’s puzzling as to why.

The Common Core excluded it from educational standards. But lawmakers in at least seven states, according to an Associated Press report in Friday’s Herald-Sun, have tried to legislate it back into the classroom curriculum. The Tar Heel state is among those seven, with the “Back to Basics” bill introduced earlier this year. The bill, which ensures both cursive and multiplication tables will be part of basic education in the state, was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory this summer after it cleared both houses of the General Assembly.

Proponents for returning cursive to the classroom have a range of arguments. Some say it will make it difficult if not impossible for future generations to read historical documents, like the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence. Others say there are indications it’s better for brain activity. Still other supporters say children not knowing how to write in cursive will open the door to forgeries and cause problems with signing legal documents.

It may be rushing the season, but we feel the need to say it anyway: Bah, humbug.

Our society is increasingly an electronic one, which means keyboarding – not pen and paper – are going to rule the day for the current crop of elementary, middle and high school students.

Much as their elders struggle to keep up with changing technology of social media and smart phones, these children are going to find the idea of long division, multiplication tables and, indeed, cursive writing, antiquated.

Speech and writing are evolving communication forms. In most places (perhaps not Durham and Chapel Hill, given our high number of academics) you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who speaks in Old English. It was anathema to use calculators in math in the not-so-distant past. Slide rules were once a necessary educational tool, although probably half the population today doesn’t know how to use one. And there was a day when there weren’t computers in classrooms, much less iPads.

Learning and technology go hand-in-hand. Our children need to be able to adapt to the new tools at hand. Cursive isn’t going to help them with that. We don’t profess to love the butchering of the English language that the new technology brings (lol, imho, np), but we also acknowledge that our children will communicate differently than we do, much as we shared information differently and in different language than our parents.

So enough arguing over the need to learn cursive. It sounds less like something our children need for a successful education than their elders trying to hold onto the past. Lawmakers need to turn their attention to more meaningful legislation down the road (which we suspect will be tapped on keyboards, not written in cursive).