Is Cursive Writing Disappearing?

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“Cursive is a style of writing in which all the letters in a word are connected. Cursive comes from the past participle of the Latin word currere, which means “to run.” In cursive writing, the letters all run into one another and the hand runs across the page, never lifting between letters.” www.vocabulary.com

The (modern?) art of communication

Handwriting, like any manual task we undertake, is very much dictated by the purpose for which it is required. We write to communicate, and most of us want to communicate in the most appropriate and effective method possible. Hence, moving into the 3rd decade of the 21st century with countless numbers of communication methods, tools and devices at our finger-tips, cursive is not likely to be the first writing style we use, just as ‘older English’ would not be our first choice of sentence structure or vocabulary.

Cursive Handwriting quote

As beautiful as cursive might be, the fact remains that it is impractical as a modern means of quick and speedy communication. Is cursive (or in fact handwriting) disappearing from our modern world? I would say not, and I do not believe it will disappear in the near future.

Why use cursive writing?

First and foremost, handwriting is and has always been a precious art-form through which artisans and artists have been able to express their knowledge of all human-kind. This includes our questions, investigations, history, philosophy and beliefs.

Just as penmanship was originally a specialised discipline, primarily used by Christian monks from the 5thcentury, its existence was not diminished by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century but rather, its use was altered from being the communication tool of the elite and learned, to being accessible to anyone who could read and write. Cursive writing went from being a means of archiving academic and political records to the everyday social exchange of family and community life, as propagated through the personal writing of letters, diaries or journals.

Some may argue the practicalities of cursive writing may be questioned in the 21st century. With computers in every classroom in the country and in every workplace, is cursive writing the first form of communication we turn to?

From a teaching perspective, here is Australia, cursive writing is explicitly taught in primary school. However, by the time a student reaches high school, it is presumed students are competent, which often is not the case.

In comparison, in the United States there are over 40 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English, which omits cursive writing from the curriculum, deeming it outdated, where focus should be placed on digital tools.

Cursive writing as an art

Despite the fact it is a taught skill, teachers find illegibility and the physical demands of writing by hand for any period of time are some of the factors driving students to put down the pen and pick up a keyboard.

Outside of the classroom however, the writing of journals and personal reflections are seeming to gain momentum with premium on-trend stationery shops doing big business supplying all the tools required for writing and storytelling.

The continued personal use of cursive writing is the very factor that will save it from extinction in our future. Putting pen to paper to compose a letter, write an inscription on a card, scribble a note or jot down a list, will keep cursive handwriting alive.

The joy of cursive writing

There is much to be said not for the best or neatest handwriting, but for the handwriting itself. Looking back over past diary entries, letters and manuscripts I realise that the heart beats faster and my emotions are heightened when I recognise the handwriting of the owner, who cared enough to write it.

For example, my Father spends all week reading newspapers, magazines etc and on coming across articles in regards to education, literature, my political persuasion, his political persuasion and more, he cuts them out, places them in neatly folded piles and last but not least, scribes my name across the article that happens to lie on the top, in his unique cursive style.

I’m always intrigued and challenged by the items he procures just for me … but it’s my name, written in his hand that makes any little scrap of paper a precious artefact that will always bring me joy and remind me of his love.

As well as providing order of thought and improving cognitive capacity, cursive writing also has the benefits of:

  • Costs next to nothing
  • Requires simply a paper and pencil/pen
  • Can be written in the sand
  • Doesn’t require charging
  • Can be replicated on any digital device
  • Takes little effort
  • Is personal
  • Can tug at the heartstrings.

So many reasons for us to ensure cursive writing doesn’t disappear and become another skill of the past.

*Is Cursive Writing Disappearing is a guest post written by Catherine Lunney – Primary Learning Leader at Southern Cross Catholic College Scarborough Primary Campus. It appeared in our print issue 42, October/November 2020.

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