Students Mourn Never Learning Cursive

Cursive - the new undecipherable secret code script!

Cursive – the new undecipherable secret code script!

Cursive was taught in my school until four years ago.  When I left, the school discontinued it as a regular subject.  Now those students are in upper elementary and early middle school, and can neither read nor write in cursive writing.

Among my tutoring students, several of them have expressed to me their sadness that their older brothers and sisters can read and write in cursive, and they cannot.  Still being in the first few classes not to learn cursive, they feel babyish and incompetent.  Perhaps in subsequent years, this embarrassment will disappear when none of the new students  have older brothers and sisters who know cursive, when they don’t.  In another six or seven years, no one will know it, and it will seem normal to upcoming students.  It’s only those in these transition years who will feel the loss.  But they will feel it for the rest of their lives.

How many adults remember the childhood feeling of waiting to learn “grown-up” writing, or scribbling to other young friends (at the age of five or six) on a paper and bragging, “I know how to write in cursive?”  Of course, at that age, no one knew, so your friends believed you, because they couldn’t read it, either!

When I tutor these students, I have to slow down and print (much more time-consuming).  Of course these students also will never be able to read historical documents or even old family letters. Furthermore, most European and Latin American countries don’t teach printing at all–they teach only cursive script starting at the age of five.  I feel this bodes poorly for a future globalized world.

I’d be happy to teach cursive to these students (being an expert cursive teacher), but that is not what I’m being paid to tutor in–we generally spend the time on math, science, reading, and writing. Furthermore, teaching cursive at an older age can be done, but it is not generally enjoyable as it is for children.  It makes children feel grown-up, and they enjoy learning it.

–Lynne Diligent

3 Responses to “Students Mourn Never Learning Cursive”

  1. priscilla johnson Says:

    I agree–not learning to write cursive is a great loss to our children in particular and our culture in general. Just developing the fine motor skills needed for cursive helps children in many ways other than writing and helps one experience a tactile feel for expressing oneself.

  2. Meredith Says:

    Agreed, this is a loss of culture, a loss of craft which I believe is of tremendous value.

    My daughter is in grade seven and my concern is that one day when she enters the work place she will not be able to read the writing of team members older than herself, which could limit how
    they perceive her and what they may or may not wish to share with her (their wisdom, experience, knowledge, etc.).

    I am researching British cursive writing (I prefer it, I’m in Canada) and hope to teach it to her (likely using bribes!) and subsequently allow her to develop her own style. The “Peterson” style alphabet is what I am hoping to start with and eventually have her copy out interesting quotes she may find interesting. Tough at this age. No age appropriate books for Peterson.

    Any suggestions are welcome. 🙂

  3. Susan Says:

    I think this has an effect on performance in exams at the university level. Students do all their assignments on a keyboard throughout the year but have to write the answers to their exams using pen and ink. They are out of practice when it comes to hand writing and if they have not learned cursive they have to use slower and more laborious print.

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