Since I started teaching English fourteen years ago, I’ve noticed a steady decline in my students’ abilities to write in cursive. When I started my career, the veteran English department chairperson at my school insisted that we require all students write in ink and cursive. To my embarrassment–this was 1999 and I was twenty-four years old–my cursive was extremely rusty. In college, like most students I knew, I used a print/cursive hybrid. We weren’t graded on penmanship. So, I practiced my penmanship and over several weeks I even learned to write beautiful blue loops on my classroom whiteboard. Students complained a bit at first, but they quickly accepted the requirement. Some parents applauded our initiative. Cursive writing felt more formal, more scholarly, than printing.
Fast forward to the year 2013: I no longer require cursive in my classroom. The majority of my students cannot read it, much less write it. I can either add cursive instruction to my already overly-packed curriculum, or I can simply accept that it is an anachronism. Maybe it belongs to the realm of the art teacher, not the writing instructor.
This doesn’t mean I am happy about the change. Cursive writing is faster, it looks nicer on the page, and there is something romantic about it. However, with time being so limited, perhaps our energies are better spent emphasizing that students must write neatly in whatever form they have mastered. The vast majority of their writing will be done with the keyboard. In my district, students will most likely use iPad touch screens to complete the Common Core assessments. We are losing something–beautiful thank you letters to Grandma spring to my mind–but the practical side of me has to admit defeat.