The Death of Handwriting

cursiveHandwriting is just not valued anymore. My guess is that you were taught cursive handwriting in your early days of school, but that is becoming less important in the curriculum.

I was unfortunately labeled as “gifted” when I was in second grade and so I was put in an experimental combined second/third grade group. Since the third graders were already writing in cursive, my group was given a fast version of penmanship. My handwriting has suffered ever since.

I did become good at printing letters and I took “mechanical drawing” (drafting) classes where we actually practiced block lettering. I even took a course in calligraphy in the hopes of improving my handwriting.

An article in Time magazine says that cursive handwriting is an obsolete skill like using a slide rule.

What was the last significant document you wrote by hand?

Remember those charts of how to make the letters that was in almost every elementary classroom? I can’t even remember how to make some letters in cursive – Z and Q are blanks.

When did the decline of cursive begin? Some history –

Our Colonial writers had s very elaborate cursive style.

In the 1800s, the popular style was a loopy, “Spencerian” script.

In the 1920s, educators thought that since children learn to read by looking at books printed in manuscript rather than cursive, they should learn to write the same way.

In the 1940s, manuscript (print writing) was the standard taught in  kindergarten and cursive was taught in second or third grade. The standardized practical style came from the Palmer Guide to Business Writing from back in 1894. Business enters school.

I asked a few people I know who teach elementary school about teaching cursive. They said that though they spend less time on it than in the past, kids like to do it. They have been trying it n their own – practicing their signature is especially popular.

Like keyboarding, they are doing it outside school anyway, so the earlier the school can address any “formal” training and correct bad habits, the better it seems to be.

Why has handwriting fallen out of favor? Ask 10 people and I bet at least nine will blame technology? Between computers and smartphones, there’s not much need to write. Hmmmm…

According to the Journal of Educational Psychology, only 9% of American high school students use an in-class computer more than once a week. Just looking at the students around me at the college, most of their note taking and in-class writing is handwriting. And most of their tests still are handwritten. No doubt, email has killed letter writing which was once a formal use of cursive.

In an age of standardized tests, handwriting just doesn’t count in the evaluation of students.

Can someone explain why doctors still scribble incomprehensible prescriptions in cursed cursive? There must be a better tech solution to validating a prescription.  It’s not like the pharmacist du jour at my CVS actually knows my doctor’s handwriting anyway. The nurse could write it.

Is handwriting an important part of your job?

Does the disappearance of cursive mean that kids will also not be able to read cursive when they see it?  On seeing the original Declaration of Independence, will they ask, “What stupid font is that?”

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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