The Guardian on Cursive

Since we're talking about cursive, let's take a look at what the Guardian has to say. They report that in Britain and the United States handwriting of all types—printing as well as cursive—is rapidly disappearing. Of course, we all write more than we think. We sign our names, fill out forms, and maybe jot a quick note to ourselves but mostly all our writing is done at a keyboard. Except for the usual suspects, this is mostly regarded as a good thing.

The Guardian's piece is relatively evenhanded. They make the obvious case for why cursive is dying and then consider why it might not be a good thing. First they trot out the usual nonsense: we won't be able to read the constitution in the original; it's a traditional art form that must be preserved at all cost; and, of course, children won't be able to develop fine motor skills without it. None of those arguments need be considered seriously.

Then they discuss several studies that, on their face, appear to make a case for learning handwriting. These mostly have to do with cognitive and learning side effects. My problem with those studies is that it's hard to see why the putative benefits of cursive don't apply just as well to printing. Despite the first paragraph no one is saying that kids shouldn't be taught handwriting; only that we shouldn't waste their time by making them learn something—cursive—that they won't need or use.

I'm sticking with my original curmudgeonly conclusion: the real reason these people are insisting on the teaching of cursive is “I had to learn it so why should these little blighters get off?” I'm also sticking with my conclusion: the dissenters may be able to delay the inevitable but it's still inevitable.

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