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Learning Cursive is a Waste of Our Kids' Time

Photograph by Twenty20

I have always loved language. Even before I entered kindergarten a year early, I can clearly remember scribbling on paper and asking my dad if I had managed to make any real letters. Once I learned to write, it was like a whole world opened up to me. We learned that you could put words together to create pictures, emotions, poetry. I started up a folder (an actual, physical folder) in which I stuffed my daily attempts at poetry. Despite my love for words and what they have the potential to create, I despised learning cursive.

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It seemed to me that I was having to learn to write twice. I had learned my letters. I had learned how they work together, and I had begun to learn the power that they had when I would string them together in particular ways. But now I had to start all over from scratch and learn to read and write them in a new way that felt a lot like I was going right back to scribbling.

As an adult, the only time that I use cursive is when I sign my name. And even then, my cursive is broken and halting and has grafted in some printed characters as well. Many of today's children will not experience the frustration that I did, in that they don't have to learn cursive at all. This seems like a logical move to me, not just because we type almost everything these days, but what we write tends to be in print, not cursive.

Traditions have their place, but if we can't back up even cherished traditions with modern logic and reasoning, I'm not sure that they have place in the public education system.

Yes, cursive is beautiful, and may even activate parts of the brain connected with art, but I don't believe it should be required learning any more than I believe that all students should be forced to learn calligraphy. Calligraphy is beautiful and has its place, but most adults do not need that knowledge or skill.

While I don't believe in the importance of learning cursive in childhood, I do believe that children should get lots of practice writing by hand. Writing with a pen or pencil stimulates the memory in ways that typing cannot. And while most of our exchanges are done using a keyboard, handwriting still holds an important place in American culture and relationships. Instead of learning cursive, I wish that I had been taught shorthand. Now that's a lost art that would actually come in handy for many students and professionals today.

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Computers are changing the world, and we must accept that our education will follow suit. If it doesn't, we are doing our children a grave injustice by insisting they follow in our footsteps just for the sake of tradition. Traditions have their place, but if we can't back up even cherished traditions with modern logic and reasoning, I'm not sure that they have place in the public education system. Let's give our children skills that they will actually use.

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