The Oxford comma debate has been settled, as least in one court of law.
But another debate rages on in the halls of academia and the forums of word nerds: the great cursive debate.
Common Core standards removed cursive instruction as a requirement, which means that in 41 states, teachers aren’t obligated to teach it…so many of them don’t.
To some, this gradual phasing out is inevitable, if not overdue. Others lament the loss of what they see as an art form and a necessary part of childhood education.
So are the connections, curlicues and flourishes most of us grew up with still relevant, or not?
Here’s a look at both sides of the debate.
Pros of cursive instruction
1. It’s good for your brain
According to science, the visceral experience of cursive writing can help students in more ways than being able to pen a pretty thank you note.
Since it engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, it can actually aid in reading comprehension, idea generation, spelling, brain development and memory.
2. It helps with dyslexia
Studies also suggest learning cursive can help students who suffer from forms of dyslexia, a disorder in which people have difficulty reading and writing words.
Typing, printing and cursive all stimulate different parts of the brain, and something about the circuits cursive activates, as well as the fine motor skills it hones, may help those who have difficulty forming written letters in the right order.
3. It bridges generations
Children who never learn cursive could have trouble doing things like deciphering a birthday note from Grandma or recognizing the words John Hancock signed his name under on the Declaration of Independence.
Just like knowing Latin can help you understand new languages, knowing cursive can help you unlock a wealth of historical knowledge and connect with past generations.
“Cursive writing is a long-held cultural tradition in this country and should continue to be taught,” says Jimmy Bryant, director of archives and special collections at the University of Central Arkansas; “not just for the sake of tradition, but also to preserve the history of our nation.”
4. It’s a form of creativity
From art classes to music programs, the chances for students to exercise creativity in school have been on the decline for decades. If cursive writing is phased out altogether, supporters argue, it will be one more form of artistic self-expression missing from today’s curriculums.
“I believe that cursive handwriting is the creative canary in the coal mine — and it’s slowly, almost imperceptibly dying,” says cursive advocate Carew Papritz in an interview with The Good Men Project. “In our 24/7, technology-drenched, social-media drowning world, we are too busy to notice and too busy to care that we are losing the ability to learn how to self-express — by developing and harnessing the creative side of our nature.”
Cons of cursive instruction
1. It’s gone the way of the typewriter
In our digital age of laptops and texting, some argue cursive has become obsolete.
How many times have you penned a letter, written a check or drafted a story out longhand lately? (If the latter, you’re in good company — it’s the preferred method of wordsmiths like George R. R. Martin and Joyce Carol Oates ). Legal signatures don’t need to be in cursive; in fact, electronic signatures are often acceptable.
“As we have done with the abacus and the slide rule, it is time to retire the teaching of cursive. The writing is on the wall,” writes Morgan Polikoff, assistant education professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, in a New York Times opinion piece titled, “Let Cursive Writing Die.”
2. It wastes valuable learning time
Teachers are already hard-pressed to cram everything they’re supposed to into the school day, especially in an educational atmosphere heavily geared towards meet testing requirements.
With big expectations to live up and not much time to do it in, teachers are forced to be selective — and sometimes, cursive writing just doesn’t make the cut.
“One of the things we heard from teachers around the country…was that sometimes cursive writing takes an enormous amount of instructional time,” Sue Pimentel, one of the people in charge of setting Common Core’s English/language standards, told PBS NewsHour. “You could be spending time on other things rather than students practicing cursive writing. It’s really a matter of emphasis.”
3. You can get the benefits of handwriting without writing in cursive
You don’t have to know how to write cursive in order to be able to read it.
There are no studies that show, definitely, that writing in cursive is more efficient than printing. Opponents argue that holding onto cursive as the last bastion of the art of handwriting misses the mark.
As handwriting author Kate Gladstone puts it in an opinion piece on The New York Times, “Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.”
4. Most people abandon it anyway
Even those who learn cursive as children usually end up scrapping the practice as they get older.
A survey conducted by Zane-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher, found that even handwriting teachers rarely used cursive regularly. The majority of them used an amalgam of print and cursive writing, something I myself do after a lifetime of tinkering with my personal style and learning what felt most efficient for me.
That said, would I go back in time and remove cursive from my lessons if I could, in order to focus on whatever might better serve me in 2017? I was the sort of kid who asked for a calligraphy set for Christmas, so I recuse myself from passing judgment.
Where do you fall in the great cursive debate? Yay or nay?