The Day Cursive Died

I remember my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Hubbard, telling me that in middle school, I would only be allowed to write in cursive. This wasn’t very comforting to the kid who struggled with the lines of most capital letters, especially G and S. Still, I was warned that print would be forbidden beyond the gates of my elementary school. As I learned the swoops, curves and loops of cursive writing, I knew that I was learning one of the great secrets of adulthood.

When I got to middle school, I only had one teacher who demanded cursive penmanship on assignments. The rest wanted everything printed because most people’s cursive was illegible. I was again promised that cursive was the standard in high school. But in high school, not one of my teachers allowed cursive on homework assignments. By then, documents typed on a computer had become preferred.

It’s strange how the world has changed. We write by hand so very rarely now. Cursive is now relegated to signature lines and checkbooks. Even there, cursive is losing its hold, as more and more people sign with squiggles and write checks in block letters.

School districts are increasingly ditching cursive for typing in their curricula (46 states no longer require it). The computer is mightier than the pen in today’s world. While fast typists may be preferable in the 21st century, I feel a pang of nostalgia for handwriting.

“If we stop teaching longhand, will we lose touch with our own history?”

My cursive isn’t great, but I’m glad I know how to do it. Not only is it quick — far faster than I can type — it is a signal of maturity and professionalism. If we lose it, we’ll not only lose an art form, we’ll also lose the ability to read the documents, letters and journals of the past. If we stop teaching longhand, will we lose touch with our own history? More importantly, if today’s children don’t learn—agonizingly at times—to write by hand, will they learn to write at all?

I hope cursive survives. Learning it was awful, but losing this beautiful, efficient script and the raw connection to the page would be a tragedy.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer and photographer in Flagstaff, AZ. You can comment here and follow him on Twitter: @jonnyeberle. Or you can subscribe to his mailing list.

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