When I was in elementary school, third grade ushered in two significant events. One was that recesses would now be spent in the Big Girls’ or the Big Boys’ yard instead of the Little Kids yard. (Just when we started to be interested in each other, they separated us!) The other was that we’d be learning cursive. This was a significant milestone, as it indicated that we were almost adults (in my mind) and that we would soon be placing our pen on the paper at the beginning of the light blue line and pick it up only at the end of words or lines, as opposed to at the end of each letter. Something about that said mature, sophisticated, and almost ready for the career world. Clearly, I was in too much of a hurry.
When my kids were in third grade around the mid-90’s, they learned keyboarding. By the end of the year they were doing what I still haven’t learned to do: type quickly without looking at the keyboard. These days they are all lightning fast keyboarders, as are all their friends. And it’s no wonder, since the vast majority of their communication is done via a keyboard – on their laptops and on their phones.
The discussion about learning cursive came up at the dinner table a few days ago. We were all marveling about their 86-year-old Nana’s impeccable, flowing penmanship. When she was in elementary school in the 30’s, penmanship was a major curriculum area and students practiced cursive for an hour a day, writing flawless sentences, comprised of flawless, perfectly formed letters.
Nana is very proud of her perfect handwriting – as she should be. We all marvel over the art that graces the front of the envelopes and the cards she faithfully sends each grandchild on their birthdays.
But Peter, 24, suggests that cursive might as well be considered an art form of yesterday: “I don’t think one language should have multiple letter sets!” he insisted. Not one to sugar coat anything, he continued. “I just find cursive obnoxious. I have a hard time reading it and it’s antiquated and unneeded. We might as well start using well and quills again!” His siblings fully agreed and their father and I admitted that we hadn’t written in cursive in many, many years — though we. like their grandmother, learned it in school and were “forced to” practice cursive. (My husband’s words; personally, I enjoyed handwriting lessons…)
I was surprised to read the comments following this article, entitled “In the Digital Are, Is Teaching Cursive Relevant?” on the PBS website. I would have thought that readers would be in Peter’s camp, but no! Quite a few readers believe that cursive is still relevant and should still be taught in elementary school.
What do you think? Is teaching cursive in elementary school antiquated or still appropriate?