There is an ongoing debate in Ohio about whether elementary school students should be taught cursive handwriting. The requirement to teach cursive was dropped from Ohio’s educational standards six years ago, but now state legislators have introduced a bill to bring it back. The bill would require Ohio students to print letters and words legibly by third grade, and then be able to write in cursive by fifth grade.
Some educators think bringing back cursive is counter-productive. After all, effective communication is the ultimate goal, so why bother with a time-consuming archaic method of communicating when high-tech, high-speed methods are now available, such as computers and tablets and smart phones? Children need to learn how to write with a keyboard, not a pencil and paper.
The superintendent of schools in Campbell City, OH, Matt Bowen, holds this view. He recently said, “We want to prepare our students for their future, not our past.”
However, there are many people who hold the opposite view. These folks consider longhand writing the “cornerstone of American education” and “an art in itself.”
An Ohio state legislator who supports the cursive bill, Marilyn Slaby, explained, “I think [children] really need to know the sounding and writing of letters, and with cursive writing, they’re learning the motion. That ties into so many other things.”
Well, to Ms. Slaby and all the other people promoting the use of cursive handwriting, I only have one thing to say: Oh please! Give me a break! (And if I wrote that out in cursive, Ms. Slaby would think I was trying to tell her: “Ophelia! Goose mema brick!”)
Teaching cursive to young students is not only archaic, it’s a waste of time. As far as I can tell, no one ever really learns it. I work in an office with 18 other people, and since none of us are currently Ohio school children, every single one of us was trained in the art of cursive writing. And now, many decades later, every single one of us absolutely cannot communicate clearly when we write a message by hand. Going through all those rote writing drills in elementary school did us no good at all.
Where I work, we sell air conditioning and ventilation products, and when someone takes an order over the phone and then passes it along to be entered into the computer, it never goes smoothly. “Dave, could you come into my office, please? I’m having trouble reading your handwriting. I’m pretty sure we do not sell, um, boa constrictors or walrus knee caps.”
Personally, I never have that problem. Since I’m left-handed, I never got the hang of cursive writing when I was a kid. I spent my entire school career with black pencil marks on the side of my left hand. So even if I did write legibly (which I didn’t), as my left hand moved across the page, it smudged everything I had just written.
Now, as an adult, I will be fired immediately from my job if I even TRY to write something in cursive. I always type out everything on my computer, even minor things like, “Matt, your wife called.” (A couple of years ago, I wrote that exact message by hand, and Matt thought I said, “Mate your whiffle ball.”)
It seems that many people wish we were living in a bygone era. But I doubt they turn to blood-letting and leeches when they feel sick. We should accept that we live in a modern, digital world. Keyboards are in, pencils and paper are out.
In conclusion, if anyone still thinks cursive is a skill worth teaching our kids, all I can say is, “Ophelia! Goose mema brick!”