The end of cursive as we know it, and I feel fine

By Eric Naing

Ages ago, the human appendix once digested cellulose for our herbivorous ancestors. Today, it serves practically no purpose at all. This is exactly how I feel about cursive handwriting: useful a long time ago, virtually worthless today. But according to a recent article in the Washington Post, the death of cursive handwriting could lead to the end of civilization as we know it.

In her article “The Handwriting Is on the Wall,” Margaret Webb Pressler writes, “Lord a’mercy! I do declare that cursive handwritin’ is quickly becoming a lost art to our young’ns. I blame those high falutin’ computers and that new fangled Internet. Those young whippersnappers with their script handwritin’ are the tools of the devil! They should also get a job and turn down that music while they’re at it.”

So maybe she didn’t write that exactly, but I’m pretty sure that at one point in her column, she yelled at me to get off her lawn.

Webb’s main point is that the increased prevalence of computers has created more students who choose not to read and write in cursive. Apparently all those uncurved and unconnected letters are simply too much for her delicate sensibilities to bear. According to Webb, “When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters.” Good lord, block letters? The horror, THE HORROR! What’s next? Kids listening to the rap music?

I was taught to write in cursive in grade school, but as soon as I was allowed to print, I did. At least for me, writing in print is quicker, easier and more legible. Eliminating cursive from the grade school curriculum would free up much needed time for teachers and make student handwriting much easier to read.

On the other hand, I never took a typing class and to this day, I still have to look down at the keyboard to type (and with only three fingers at that). It seems only logical that in today’s computer-centric society, cursive lessons should be replaced by typing lessons. I would much rather be taught how to type properly than about those triple-humped “m’s” and ridiculous lowercase “b’s” in cursive.

According to Webb, “several academic studies have found that good handwriting skills at a young age can help children express their thoughts better.” I find this highly suspicious. As far as I know, there has yet to be a convincingly established link between cursive handwriting and a child’s ability to think. If anything, other factors such as family income, race and quality of schooling would have a greater impact on a child’s intellectual development. A child with a higher socioeconomic status is more likely to have a better education (and more likely to have proper cursive training).

Cursive handwriting is simply a waste of time. To continue the human anatomy metaphor, cursive handwriting is like our appendix. Its purpose has long ago been served and now it’s just taking up valuable space. Like home economics or shop class, cursive handwriting is an antiquated educational concept that needs to be eliminated.

Similar to how people decry the use of mp3s over CDs or records, the outcry over the demise of cursive is just the previous generation’s attempt to shame us into treasuring some useless relic of their childhood. I’m sure one day I’ll be chastising the youth of 2036 for not recognizing the importance of the keyboard while they use their laser-eye typing system or whatever they have.

Webb’s issue is more about nostalgia than an actual concern for the cognitive development of today’s youth. Her lament makes her seem like a crotchety old woman, tut-tutting “the kids these days” and their confusing new habits.

And Ms. Webb, I know I shouldn’t have thrown my Frisbee into your yard, but could I have it back?