It recently dawned on me that my daughter is in grade six, and she can’t form all her cursive letters. Well, I was up in arms! “What’s with schools today? Can’t they just teach the basics?” I began to rant. ”When I was kid, we knew…” “Mom, please!” my daughter interrupted. “We don’t NEED cursive any more. We just type everything on the computer. We are NEVER going to use it.” Ouch. She was right about one thing: Since learning her cursive letters in grade three, opportunities to practice have been few and far between. All her school assignments are typed, and letters to friends and families are typed emails.
Call me a dinosaur, but I would like to make a case for the value of teaching cursive writing. Just because something is “useless,” doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Case in point: Many of us have never used trigonometry since high school, and similarly have never found any practical application for “To Kill A Mockingbird.” That’s fine, because put together over time, many seemingly “useless” units actually contribute to the larger goal of creating a well-rounded person. (This notion of education has been around since ancient Greece. Click here to read about “The Well Trained Mind and classical education.”)
Back to the dying art of cursive. Is it worth saving in the name of “good education?” Here are some reasons why cursive should be kept in the education system.
1- Develops fine motor skills. “It’s the dexterity, the fluidity, the right amount of pressure to put with pen and pencil on paper,” noted a pediatric occupational therapist in this “Newser” article. Ever notice how easily your hand tires from writing? Tapping screens does not make for good fine motor skill development.
Here is a white board I will be using with my kids for practice. I found it at a dollar store:
2-Develops focus and attention to detail. Learning to write cursive takes practice and concentration, and a lot of attention to detail. Kids today don’t have many opportunities to develop this kind of focus and attention to detail. Computers form their letters, check their spelling, and encourage short attention spans.
I had my kids practice writing out very short poems, and short paragraphs with fun facts. This kills two birds with one stone, because they are also absorbing the text. I found this workbook with short paragraphs about historical events. Really, anything favourite piece of writing will do.
3- Develops individual expression and a sense of esthetic. I may have messy handwriting, but it is all mine. My signature is all mine. I would recognize my husband’s and my childhood friend’s writing anywhere. Some people have beautiful handwriting, and take pride in their daily stylish productions. It’s also pleasing to the reader. Maybe I’m reaching on this point, but something is lost.
4- Develops self-reliance, rather than reliance on technology. What if the computer crashed? What if your iphone stopped working and you had to leave someone a note? Hey, Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours today, so anything could happen! Does anyone even remember how to use an encylopedia!? I think it’s scary to hand over all our skills to computers. Just like kids still need the four operations even though we have calculators, I think they still need cursive even with word processors. It’s a lot faster than writing with block letters.
Maybe it’s sentimental and archaic, but we’re going to give the cursive thing a go at my house. How about you?