Kids today are growing up in a texting, typing and emailing world. Sure, they take notes in class and some even scribble out the occasional phone message at home, but for the most part, their written communication is not written at all. 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 the latest educational dilemma. Is it a waste of precious class time for schools to continue to teach cursive handwriting to kids?
For starters, cursive handwriting does have 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.
All of this may be why Arizona recently became the first state to require students to learn cursive writing in schools. The state's Board of Education approved a new set of education standards, which mandate that students master cursive writing by the 5th grade.
Those who want to drop cursive handwriting from classroom education argue that the subject is no longer necessary. Other than homework for penmanship class, what paperwork is turned in using cursive? And if you do need to write something by hand, wouldn't printing work just as well? You're not even required to use cursive for signatures — a printed signature is just as valid. And just think of the amount of instructional time that is wasted teaching and correcting children in the fine art of cursive handwriting. That's time that could be spent reading, strengthening math skills or teaching geography.
Are there enough reasons to keep it around? Or should cursive handwriting, like calligraphy, be relegated to the occasional arts and crafts class?
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in May 2011.