Stop Crying Over Cursive

I hate cursive. Yet, I find there is still a large minority who love it. People have a strange affinity for it. Their love for it arises to the zealous levels of a religious fundamentalists who mourns over a society that has forgotten her gods. I felt this whimper in a recent article I read at the Economist.

Cursive’s Patriotic Following

Cursive has its own blind patriotic following. Indeed, in Texas, which would probably be considered the most patriotic state in America, cursive was injected back into elementary school curriculum after having been removed. I feel like somewhere, somebody has a red hat that says “Make Cursive Great Again!” Get my drift?

And if you dare speak a word against learning cursive, you quickly become the equivalent of a flag burner. Indeed, some would say the entire point of learning cursive is so you can read for yourself the original founding documents drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and all his friends at the time of the American Revolution. Which of course, hardly anyone who writes in cursive has actually done.

I wonder if the ancients mourned the loss of cuneiform writing like some do cursive. You remember cuneiform don’t you? Odds are, you don’t, and there is a reason for that. It was relegated to the trash bin of history. It served a functional purpose of course, but it was replaced by better styles of writing and advances in technology.

Like cuneiform, there are reasons we have given up writing in cursive.

Better Forms Of Communication And Technology

Cursive was designed for writing something quickly and swiftly. You could write an entire word without having to lift your quil and dipping for more ink. It was efficient. It was often beautiful in the hands of a well trained scribe.

But it was also mostly chicken scratch in which most people scribbled words that were largely impossible to read. The letters “i” and “e” often blend together, along with “w” and “u,” and well… pretty much everything else.

As it turns out, few people were actually skilled enough to write anything legible with cursive, in spite of spending hours upon hours practicing on papers with 3 lines in school as a kid. Everything eventually became a weird garble and alphabet salad that was hard to consistently reproduce in a way that was decipherable to others. It made communication really hard, and people gradually started preferring print.

That’s why we use cursive as our signature on checks and legal documents. Our swift swirls on a page have become like fingerprints, and are almost impossible to duplicate by others, even if they were very careful in attempting to do re-write what you wrote. Signatures became like a form of encryption, reproduced only by blind muscle memory.

The Future Of Cursive

But in an age of biometric thumbprint scanners, I would contend that in the future we won’t even need our signatures for legal documents. Once the boomers die off, a thumb print will do, as cursive will be seen as a strange and ancient form of communication. It has gone the way of cuneiform. In a culture that is growing up typing with emoji’s, there is hardly a reason to believe anyone except historians will have the actual need to read things written in cursive.

There is a reason the printing press and most people naturally preferred block letters. The letters are distinct and communicate clearly. Nothing swirls together in an indecipherable way. You read exactly what the author intended to say without any question as to what is being communicated. Exactly like this blog post, which was typed in block letters. Had it been written in a cursive script, you probably couldn’t have read it… or at least, you wouldn’t have.

Cursive Version Of This Article

For those who insist on handwriting, I’ve created a handwritten cursive version of this article for you to partially read below. Good luck. Mourn the loss of your gods.

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3 thoughts on “Stop Crying Over Cursive

  1. Hand printing is often clearer and more likely to get your point across. The real rub is the advancement of technology. The post office has been using scanners to read hand printed and type written addresses for years. You can scan a hand written document and easily convert the text into a word processor document that can be edited, emailed or stored electronically. The simple truth is that we live in a world where very little needs to be written by hand at all.

    As a former history teacher, let me share this little tidbit of information. Students have no interest in reading historical documents. All the importants ones have been been typeset and now appear in textbooks and online. The real obstacle is that way our use of English has change, both in terms of vocabulary and style. The Founding Fathers wrote single sentences that we would consider paragraphs.

    There is justification, in my opinion and experience, to teach writing in cursive. I feel the same way about analogue clocks. Schools are removing them because kids don’t know how to read them. Why teach that skill, and continue buying that equipment and resetting the time twice each year, when every phone, tablet and laptop screen has the right time on it?

    1. Makes sense to me. It also makes me wonder, do we really need to have every possible odd ball skill set taught to kids? I’d rather kids spend time learning things in school that they really need to know in order to be a good student. Some things should just be learned on their own time.

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