Don’t curse cursive

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 Do we want them to be incapable of studying historical documents written in cursive?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.


  1. I agree. We should all be able to read cursive. BUT as someone who had to take remedial cursive classes and still can't read her own writing, much less have it read and understood by someone else, I'm not entirely opposed to our new digital ways:)

  2. Based on the sample in your blog, my opinion is that your "fist" is not only more legible than 90% of what I typically see, but very pretty, as well. I am totally against this move to eliminate teaching how to write in cursive. Our handwriting is as individual as our fingerprints; why would we want to lose that part of our expressive selves?

  3. I met a man who was a criminology professor at NC State (retired). I guess he taught the skill of "profiling". Anyway, he had me write my cursive signature only. Within seconds he was telling me all about myself. It was cool, but creepy. Can't do that with block letters!

  4. Signatures: I am not alone when I say that I never sign my name in "cursive" or "block letters." It is in italic cursive, a simple, some say elegant method.

    Left-handers: I have taught many left-handers. They do not push a pen. They hold pen so they pull it and never smear.

    Reading looped cursive: In less than an hour children can be taught to read it. It takes many more hours to teach it properly, and far more to teach than cursive italic. Come visit

  5. I complain about this all the time. The decline of hand-written letters breaks my heart. I still have hand-written note from 40 years ago and go back and read them over and over. Can't do that with a text message! What can we do to make sure "real writing" keeps its place in school curriculums?

  6. Thanks for that reminder, Mickie … I'd forgotten that back in the day, at least in our school, cursive was called "real writing." Maybe that's why we felt such a sense of accomplishment when we'd mastered it!

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