Cursive: a dying art

Can it stand the test of time as society moves into a digital age?


Image via Creative Commons

Many students learned how to read and write cursive in elementary school. I, myself learned it when I was in third grade, and have written in almost nothing but cursive since then. However, it’s interesting to note that writing cursive has become a sort of dying art, even among my own peers: Whenever I mention I still write in cursive, I’m frequently met with expressions of incredulity, followed by several variations of the statement, “I haven’t written in cursive since I was in elementary school!”

In 2010, the Common Core stopped making cursive a requirement in schools, but whether said schools chose to drop it or not turned out to be a mixed bag, as some decided to keep it in their curriculum while others chose to abandon it. And while the debate over the necessity of cursive continues to this day, I’d argue that despite our increasing dependence on technology, cursive is—and always will be—a critical skill to learn.

An age-old argument that applies not just to cursive, but handwriting in general, is that taking notes and reminders helps people better retain information than if they typed it out—which, according to the Association for Psychological Science, is called “mindless transcription:” when people don’t think about what they write or type.

In addition to simply improving one’s memory, writing in cursive can also improve brain development. Since cursive requires the use of both the right and left brain hemispheres, it can improve one’s memory, reading comprehension and fine motor skills, according to a New York Times article by Suzanne Baruch Asherson, “The Benefits of Cursive Go Beyond Writing.”

Writing in cursive has also been shown to help people with various forms of dyslexia, according to the New York Times article “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades” by Maria Konnikova. It makes it harder for dyslexics to misspell words, since the letters are typically written as one unit, rather than separately like in print handwriting. And as mentioned previously, it also helps them learn to read and write by also improving their memory and fine motor skills.

And while there are other arguments in favor of cursive—albeit weaker ones, such as improving the neatness of one’s handwriting and the speed at which they write—it’s more than apparent that typing is the new way to go, especially in a digital age where many older documents written in cursive can or have already been transcribed into print, therefore seemingly eliminating the need for learning the skill in the first place.

Then again, how were people able to transcribe those documents in the first place? By being able to read cursive. Countless works written in cursive would’ve been unavailable to the public if the people who transcribed them in the first place hadn’t been able to read them. We wouldn’t even have been able to read our own Constitution, which is written entirely in cursive, if there hadn’t been people who transcribed the text and made it available for everyone to read, regardless of their ability to read and write cursive.

Cursive might be a dying art, and while it might be a tough pill for some people to swallow, it’s a pill that will become harder to avoid choking down as technology continues to advance. However, regardless of whether cursive manages to stand the test of time and remains a staple in our curriculum and our daily lives, never forget that without it, there would be far less information freely available to the public than there is today.