Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Slow Death of Cursive

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 at 4:28 PM

Some politicians choose to focus on poverty or drop-out rates or foster care or government spending.

But in Idaho, Rep. Linden Bateman is on a different sort of crusade: protecting cursive. According to the Spokesman-Review, he introduced a resolution this morning to make instruction of cursive part of the Idaho Common Core. He's even been visiting with reporters in Boise to show off his penmanship.

As a retired history teacher, he worries that if kids lose their ability to write all swoopy-like, the distance between the past and present will grow even further.

“What will that do to historical research?” he asked. “Family research?Genealogy? Our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence – kids will not be able to read those documents in the original. It disconnects kids from their past – weakens the connection.”

But it may be too late. We're already there. Have you ever sat down with the Declaration of Independence lately? It's entirely illegible. The s's look like f's, making things even more infcrutable. The shapes of letters have changed, and the art of calligraphy has become the province of wedding invitations, not correspondence.

We wrote this article on this exact phenomenon two years ago. Bad cursive is worse than no cursive.

Kathleen Wright is the national product manager for handwriting for Zaner-Bloser, a company whose curriculum has been used to teach handwriting in schools since 1904. “I’m seeing a rise in concern at the university level,” Wright says. Cursive handwriting on essays turned into college professors is becoming increasingly messy. With standardized test prep panicking teachers at elementary schools nationwide, the amount of time spent on cursive instruction has fallen drastically.


And as cursive quality gets worse and cursive usage becomes more rare,choosing to write in cursive becomes ever more dangerous. Something needs to change.

Just ask the ultimate arbiter of truth, the organization that proved the existence of Santa Claus: The U.S. Postal Service. Remember the cursive Q? “The Postal Office asked us to change it,” says Wright of Zaner-Bloser. Postal workers kept thinking it was a “2.”

Expect this trend to continue: As iPads and smart boards become increasingly ubiquitous, cursive still will be taught. But as an elective taken by artists, designers, and history majors.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...