My students, who sometimes struggle to read the comments on their marked up writing assignments, can tell you that my penmanship is nothing to brag about. I’ve always blamed my lack of a fine flowing hand on the fact that we southpaws have to push the pen rather than pull it gently across the page.
Or, in my case and a few others I’ve seen, to rotate the left hand 90 degrees and write from the top rather than the bottom — smudging everything already written in the process.
Even though my handwriting is less than stellar, I know how to do it, and I know how to read it. I think that’s important. You may have noticed, however, that fewer and fewer students are learning to write in cursive. North Carolina recently became one of 45 states that have implemented something called the “Common Core” standards for language arts and mathematics. Amazingly, cursive writing is not included in the curriculum.
How can the ability to sign one’s name with something other than block letters not be part of a basic body of knowledge and skills that educated people should have? I love educators, but I have to believe the decision to eliminate cursive handwriting from the curriculum deserves an F.
Some educators argue that society has gone so digital and we spend so much time at keyboards that we don’t need cursive. Others argue that it helps students learn spelling and common letter patterns while concentrating harder in the process of writing. It certainly teaches fine motor skills.
In North Carolina, Representative Pat Hurley, a Republican from Asheboro, has introduced a bill that would require cursive writing to be taught in elementary schools. I’m not usually in favor of legislators telling educators what to do, but I have some sympathy for this measure.
From the standpoint of practicality and function, perhaps cursive isn’t the most important thing to be teaching, but I think its value goes beyond that. For one thing, do we want a generation of children who can’t read letters or cards from a favorite aunt or grandparent? Do we want them to be incapable of studying historical documents written in cursive?
Writing in cursive is akin to the arts — it has a subjective appeal that in some ways seems more civilized than a series of hastily scribbled block letters. My signature may not be as neat or distinctive as John Hancock’s, but when a contract or document calls for me to print my name on one line and sign on another, that’s what I do. I believe our children should be able to do the same.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.