Several months ago, surrounded by fellow high school juniors and seniors, I sat in an unfamiliar classroom for four long hours to take the SAT. But before we began the torturous test, each student was required to copy a statement in cursive verifying that he or she would not cheat. As I looked around the room, students slowly and painfully traced the letters onto the lines, whispering, indignant and amused, that they hadn’t written in cursive since the third grade.
In a society increasingly oriented towards technology, math and science, cursive handwriting is seen as an outdated skill, no longer beneficial to students. In many states, cursive is no longer a required part of the curriculum; being able to write in print and type skillfully are viewed as enough. I know few high schoolers who still write in cursive regularly.
Call me a traditionalist out of touch with the times, but I think that cursive still has value as more than just an antique art form. First and foremost, students will always need to sign documents and must know at least a small amount of cursive to do so. In addition, there is evidence that writing in cursive uses the brain in different ways than typing or writing in print. It requires more developed fine motor skills and more interaction between parts of the brain. And cursive is important if only for historical reasons: if students don’t learn cursive, they will be unable to read documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in their original forms.
However, while these points have some validity, they are not the real reason I write in cursive today. I remember my second grade classmates and I begging our teacher to show us how to write our names in cursive. We wanted to learn what we had heard called “real writing,” that mysterious code that was a rite of passage in our journeys as students. Of course, for most of us, the novelty wore off as the years passed, and the requirement to write in cursive became just one more rule that we had to follow. But when I entered high school, after initially reveling in my freedom to write in print, I found myself returning to the way I had written for years.
Cursive represents my small rebellion against the relentless forward march of our society into scientific efficiency. It is my way of honoring the heritage and traditions that have shaped us every bit as much as new advancements. In its flow and visual appeal, it reminds me to appreciate beauty and not just absorb information. Perhaps I’m imbuing a trivial choice with undue importance. In any case, though, let’s not let cursive become a fossilized relic of ages past.by