The Writing on the Wall

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The Writing on the Wall

Lauren Bruce, Editor

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Cursive. Most of us have had at least some experience with it, but few students can read it. Even fewer actually use it. But, there’s a generational gap; most of our parents can reliably read and write in the loopy scrawl that confounds so many of us. So, what changed? 

The answer is in technology. Cursive has been around since the ancient Romans in many forms, but it has always had the same purposeto make writing easier, faster, and legible. In the 15th century, the printing press introduced separated, dense script (print) in order to fit more words on a page. Print continued in 70’s curriculums with the D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser methods, which taught print and cursive side-by-side. As computers advanced, print became the choice for text on a screen—we’re all familiar with the pixelated, blocky text on old Atari consoles or arcade machines. It’s because programming wasn’t capable of producing curves, making cursive impossible. 

As technology progressed and became more relevant, print became the most commonly used script. Nowadays, more focus is put on typing and computer use than on handwriting, but cursive in still in Georgia educator standards for the 3rd and 4th grades: Students should to be able to “Write legibly in cursive, leaving spaces between letters in a word and between words in a sentence.” (Conventions of Standard English ELAGSE4L)  

Disregarding the contradiction that cursive’s purpose is for words to be entirely connected without space between the letters, we are still seeing that, though these standards might be met in elementary school, they rarely transfer into a lasting knowledge. This could be a direct reflection of the fact that after fourth grade, cursive disappears from the standards. 

From my own experience as someone fluent in cursive, it was surprising to me how many kids couldn’t write anything in cursive beyond their signature, if that. When I asked Collin Smith, a junior who attended Cartersville Elementary, if he could write in cursive reliably, he responded that if anything involves a Z or a Q, then no, and admitted that he didn’t remember enough for practical use.  

Another student told a story that took place in the classroom. While the class was learning cursive, they responded to a teacher’s question that they didn’t understand it/knew little about it. The result? The teacher grew frustrated and the class didn’t continue learning.  

These situations pose many questions: Why does the school system/the Georgia Standards seem to care so little about a skill they’re still attempting to teach? Is cursive still necessary to know in this age of technology? And most importantly, should we still be teaching it?