Cursive is being taught less and less these days. It is no longer a needed skill to survive in the US, thanks largely to computers and most of the writing being moved to electronic devices. Keyboarding is replacing cursive after one learns print handwriting.
Many adults over 30 feel this is a shame, that we are depriving our children of a culture, and a skill, we remember fondly. Yet, from a practical standpoint, I would rather have my child know how to type than write cursive. From an employment standpoint, how fast you type matters. How fast or clearly you handwrite does not matter. It rarely comes up.
In fact, I have worked with several people who do not know cursive when designing software, and only once did it become a problem. We were in a meeting at Microsoft, and there were about five of us in the room. A coworker wrote something on the whiteboard, in cursive. We started diving into it to decide if it would solve our problem or not, until the youngest in the room, a new college hire, asked what he had written. The guy had never learned cursive. After a few minutes of “how can you not know cursive,” the cursive writing co-worker rewrote the information in print. From that point on, we solved this problem by simply not writing in cursive. This was about ten years ago.
So, for the three Rs, cursive is not needed. There are other reasons to teach them, though the science behind the recommendations is often not there. The best option seems to be to teach print handwriting first and then to teach cursive if your goal is to be able to handwrite quickly (or vice versa). Print handwriting is a simpler handwriting and looks like what people read in print, so it can be easier for kids to learn. Learning handwriting does help with how the brain grows as you learn. It doesn’t really seem to matter what type of handwriting you learn.
Culture is another reason people want their children to learn cursive. They can read old documents, and have a better understanding of our written language. While I do see the value in this, it doesn’t seem to me to be a strong enough reason to force cursive on a child at the expense of another subject, as cursive can be picked up at a later date.
Given all this, you are probably wondering why it is important to me that my daughter learns cursive. For me, there are two reasons: proactive learning to prevent dyslexia and wider education. I think I will start with wider education first.
My daughter loves to learn, but she loves to learn when all the subjects are somewhat mingled. I think this is great, as it gets more cultural and critical thinking education in. Both are important and often overlooked. Cursive is part of cultural awareness. It does not directly relate to critical thinking and problem solving, but a program that has cursive in it without sacrificing another subject is likely to use critical thinking to help get more subjects in a day.
And finally, the biggest reason for my daughter to learn cursive is that both her parents have dyslexia. The way dyslexia works is things get flipped and moved around in a 3D environment in our minds. Because of this, “b,” “d,” “p,” and “q” all look the same. But if we learn to look at the words instead of the individual letters, then “bed” looks different from “pad,” for example. When I am reading and writing, I actually think about the word bed to help me see “b” and “d” differently. Cursive enables this by connecting the letters in a word together. My daughter may not have dyslexia, but she does show possible early signs. Because of this, if cursive was not introduced to my daughter in second grade after print handwriting was mastered, I would be taking her to calligraphy classes to get the basics of cursive.
So is cursive required in today’s culture and environment to succeed? No. But it is interesting and can be helpful. Additionally, a program that teaches it as a second writing style is more likely to have a more diverse education program that encourages critical thinking and cultural knowledge in addition to the three Rs. Also, if your child has certain kinds of disabilities, it can help them master their disabilities.