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Samantha Kemp-Jackson Headshot

We Should All Mourn the Death of Cursive Writing

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It's all over, folks.

Some of you may remember the time in public school when you got your first pencil. On a specially-lined piece of paper, you tentatively set the lead to the page and pressed. As you moved your hand slowly while concentrating on the script, shape and feel of the letter, you felt a wave of both excitement and pride in your discovery.

You were learning to write, and isn't that what older, smarter and wiser people did?

Writing, you knew, was a way of having the world open up to you because with this tool, you could convey your thoughts and feelings and receive the same in return. Writing was the currency of thought, knowledge, investigation and revelation. Writing was going to allow you to express yourself in a way that had previously been impossible.

Even at your tender age, it was evident that the power behind the written word was unmistakable. And that power would start with the simple stroke of a pencil, and later a pen.

But as with everything, all things must come to an end and the desire learn to write -- literally -- has all but disappeared from our cultural conscience. Children these days emulate their parents and elders and aspire to do what they see their esteemed role models doing. One doesn't have to look very far to see that what is being done by these people rarely includes anything close to the act of writing, of bringing pen, or pencil, to paper. No, what is being done involves keyboard strokes, texting and video or voice messaging. Writing with a tool such as a pencil or pen, is nowhere in the mix. As a result, is it any wonder then that cursive writing -- once a standard of the elementary school experience -- is in its death throes?

Cursive, the ability to join letters via script in a conjoined or flowing manner, is a lost art. Even amongst those of us who were schooled during a time where this skill was mandatory there is a large contingent of messy writers, whose attempts at using script is often mistaken for "chicken scratch" or worse. So reliant have we become on the keyboard and our digital methods of communication that the need for old-fashioned handwriting on those rare occasions that arise elicits feelings of incredulity, annoyance and often fear.

Now seen as an anachronistic vestige of days gone by, script produced by one's own hand is a skill that is being phased out of many school boards. Kids today apparently don't need it, therefore it's rapidly being removed from the curriculum.

Cursive appears to have become obsolete. The thought of communicating a message "by one's own hand" -- literally -- is only seen as an acceptable form of interaction in the absence of more recent technological tools. Those who write are often scorned and "snail mail" is seen as an inferior and archaic method of connecting with others despite its once important role in our lives.

Yet the gains that we used to make by learning script and painstakingly writing each and every letter of the alphabet in a certain format has been lost in our zeal to make our lives easier. We love our tech tools and as a result we've got less patience, more anxiety and little time to learn a skill that may take a bit longer than crafting a quick text message or email. We've thrown the baby out with the bathwater by reducing cursive to an old-fashioned way of doing things that has no place in the modern world.

The repercussions of our actions? Well, there are many:

  • The manual dexterity, precision and fine-motor control are skills that children gain from the act of using cursive will be in short supply
  • Our children's academic abilities will be hindered when cursive writing is replaced by keyboard strokes
  • A large part of our cultural history will become lost as a result of cursive being phased out in schools
  • Children's ability to read important historical documents or letters from grandparents or older relatives will be severely hindered
  • Our children will never know the sense of achievement felt after finally "getting it" following many months of earnest practice of each and every letter of our alphabet

What may on the surface seem to be a vestige of a less advanced time, cursive is, in fact, more that it may appear. Yes -- it may look "quaint" in the face of our latest voice-recognition software that transcribes our aural words into text. It may not have all of the convenient shortcuts, bells and whistles of the most recent iteration or version upgrade available for quick and easy download. It may not even have the "wow factor" of being able to type without care, as sloppily as possible, only to have your super-intelligent A.I. clean up your dirty work, making you look like a precise and competent writer.

Cursive, and all of its inherent benefits, provides us a link to our past, connectivity within our present and a portal to our future. So much of our history has been documented only through cursive script. And moving forward, our future leaders and generations to come may be better able to understand each other -- and themselves -- as a result of the communications skills learned via cursive.

For these and so many other reasons, cursive is a skill that must remain within our schools and our cultural realm. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater in our efforts to appear "advanced" because by doing so, we're only hurting ourselves...and our children.

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