Is Cursive Handwriting Obsolete?

In a world of typing and texting, do students still need to learn cursive?. (Photo: karen roach/Shutterstock)

We live in a texting, typing, emailing world — even at school. Sure, kids take notes in class and some even scribble out the occasional phone message at home, but for the most part, their written communication isn't written that often. Combine that trend with the pressure on schools to squeeze every last drop of instructional time into a child's school day, and you have an educational dilemma. Is it a waste of precious class time for schools to teach cursive handwriting to kids?

The pendulum swings back and forth on this issue.

Cursive handwriting does offer a few benefits over printed handwriting, namely ease and speed. Once kids master the subject, they can take notes using cursive much faster and more intuitively than when they print the letters. Some educational experts also argue that cursive handwriting is an excellent cognitive exercise, helping to improve motor skills and strengthen the connections between the brain and hands.

When Common Core standards were put in place starting in 2010, teachers and administrators had a delicate balancing act on their hands. With only so many hours in the school day and rules for what students in each grade must learn in terms of language arts and mathematics, something had to go. Cursive writing — and many other types of training that support learning like music and even recess — lost ground.

All of this may be why the tide is turning. Texas is the most recent state to require students to learn cursive, following the lead of Arkansas, Virginia, California, Florida, Alabama, Arizona and several other states. In many cases, including Texas, new rules mandate that students master cursive writing in stages from the second to fifth grades.

For many, it's all about change.

Big Think did a deep dive on the trend, summing up the benefits, drawbacks and emotional baggage that come with the eradication of such traditions:

For most of us, that thought elicits one of two responses. Either we bristle at the thought of a future generation's not knowing cursive's lovely, flowing script. Or we cheer at the idea, remembering the jeers of teachers past at our blocky, yet readable, print.

For now, the pendulum in swinging in a new direction, but if history is any guide, it will change again.