I started journals for each of my children when they were born. I use them to mark special event and milestones. They’ve also morphed into scrapbooks with ticket stubs and old birthday cards. My hope is to deliver a book of memories they might not have of their own lives when they’re older. I hope these journals become a treasure, but as my oldest started elementary school I began to worry. The carefully-crafted messages to my kids are painstakingly handwritten in cursive — Are they even going to be able to read what I wrote?
The rigors of handwriting
As a child, learning cursive was given just as much attention as perfecting printed handwriting. At some point, we weren’t even allowed to print anymore. Today, my third grader brings home cursive practice sheets like they’re an afterthought. She only writes in print. Pretty soon, she’ll most likely just type instead of write long-form at all. It saddens me to think of what we may lose as handwriting becomes less and less essential to communication. The personal touch of a handwritten card, the practice in focus required to write legibly, the unique flair one can bring with the right combination of pen and ink. Will these all dwindle away, replaced by fonts and filters?
The ruin of cursive
This question only emerges because of Common Core. If you have kids, you know what this is all about, but Common Core sets the educational standards for teaching and testing in English and math from kindergarten through senior year of high school. It defines the knowledge students “should have” within each grade. Forty-two of the fifty states adopted Common Core which means they no longer have to teach cursive because Common Core says it’s not required.
While not mandated as part of the curriculum, states can still decide to teach this beautiful art of penmanship. Georgia, where I live, does in fact have two standards in place for teaching cursive. In third grade, which my daughter just completed, students learn the basics and move on to the next school year being able to write “legibly" in cursive. Legibility being a subjective thing if you ask me. Throughout fourth grade, students continue working on cursive, learning to leave spaces between letters and words. Only nine other states currently require cursive writing instruction. According to the Education Commission of the States, five others are currently considering adding the requirement.
The backlash of not knowing cursive
I can think of a lot of reasons why cursive is essential for my kids. Nothing more important though than being able to read my own handwriting. How can I quickly scribble an important note without it? How will I pass on the memories I’ve already penned in their journals?
Going beyond my selfish reasons of struggling to communicate with my own kids, there’s the preservation of history to consider. Cursive was the handwriting of choice on almost all of our significant, historical documents. If children can’t read The Constitution how will they uphold it? If an assignment asks them to look at original source material that dates back to previous centuries, will they know what it says? I feel comfortable thinking my kids will be able to decipher cursive content even if they never really write in it themselves, but they’re the minority.
The reason I care
The written word is an amazing gift. It provides knowledge, it entertains, it evokes emotions. It’s also a way we can express ourselves, and up to very recently, it was all done by hand. I’d hate to think of what could be lost if future generations can’t read the original words that inspired change, shared ideas, and got people to really think, simply because they’re written in cursive.