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Is Technology Making Cursive Obsolete?


So often when we talk about technology, we are looking into the future and anticipating what might be possible. But today I wanted to bring up a story that takes a look at the past and asks what we might be losing because of technological trends and advancements. This Associated Press story discusses how penmanship is slowly becoming a lost art, getting squeezed out of the curriculum in favor of 21st-century skills.


While many educators don't see the harm in this shift, some fear that students may be losing an important skill, says the article. For instance, historic documents written in cursive could be harder to read for students who aren't familiar with script, says one educator in the article. And students won't always be around a keyboard and should know how to write legibly without one, say others.

I have to say that while I agree that students should know how to write legibly without a keyboard, I wonder how important it really is for students to know cursive specifically. Perhaps it is my own bias, since I learned cursive in third grade and, beyond the instances I was required to use it, have rarely tapped into that knowledge. It seems that if a student needs to turn in a formal writing assignment, whether it be for school or a job application, it is expected that it will be typed, rather than hand-written. And I know cursive is supposed to be faster in timed writing assignments, but for those who never practice cursive (like myself), printing is much faster.

What do you think? Does penmanship still have a place in our schools, and if so, what is it? Or is it silly to spend so much time on a skill that gets little emphasis outside of school? Can you think of any other skills that are being made obsolete by technology?

Photo by Bob Bird/AP


Silly! About as useful as teaching cuneiform

It simply doesn’t seem like cursive has a large place in our schools anymore. Teaching it as a major subject seems like a waste of time. Would it be so wrong to expose students to reading cursive if that’s the only real issue combating eliminating it altogether? For that matter, aren’t all of the historical documents one will ever need to read available in print, either online or in textbooks? If a student asks what a letter is, all the teacher is going to have to say is, “That’s how they used to make R’s.”

As much as I am a proponent of educational technology, I still say we should teach students cursive and get them to a point where they have a decent signature. People still have to write checks, we are required to sign our driver's licenses and passports and the backs of our credit cards. Legal documents require signatures. Printed names are much easier to forge. Technology is moving fast, but I believe signatures are still going to be an important part of our daily lives for quite a long time yet.

Dyslexic students also do better with cursive when they have to write because they don't struggle as much with letter reversal.

The point about not being able to read historical documents, even family historical documents like a letter from your grandmother or a postcard a relative sent home during WWII, is a valid one. Students should at least be exposed enough to cursive writing to be able to decode it. Whether students should be required to use it every day might be another point of debate.

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