Opinion Brief

Should kids still learn cursive handwriting?

In this digital era, schools are spending less time teaching penmanship — a big mistake according to childhood developmental experts

With young Americans increasingly tapping out their thoughts on computer keyboards and smartphones, schools are placing less and less emphasis on teaching penmanship, reports The New York Times. Children used to get several years of instruction in cursive handwriting. Now many schools only teach it in the 3rd grade. "We're preparing our kids for the 21st century," says Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School in Cohoes, N.Y., as quoted in the Times. "Is cursive really a 21st-century skill?" Well, is it?

No, kids just don't need cursive: The decline of penmanship isn't really a problem, says Jen Doll at The Village Voice. "In our modern day keyboard- and smartphone-focused lifestyles, we simply don't need it" any more, except for signing our names on credit card bills. So let cursive rest in peace, and embrace our evolution as a species. "We don't write on cave walls anymore, either, at least, the majority of us don't."
"Cursive is dead, long live typing with our keyboard-pushers!"

Learning cursive is key to brain development: This isn't just "retro sentimentality or neo-Luddism," says Edward Tenner at The Atlantic. Learning to produce script strengthens the "connections between hand and brain," a vital part of human development. We don't need to fetishize cursive the way our 19th-century ancestors did, but we'll do kids a favor if we start "developing 21st-century teaching methods" for reviving this dying art.
"Handwriting is a 21st century skill"

The death of cursive has been exaggerated: Don't panic, says Brian Palmer at Slate. People will keep joining letters together as long as they're still writing, because our brains are programmed to do things as quickly as we can. "In fact, cursive writing is a bit like sex: Youngsters are going to do it whether we like it or not." We just have to decide whether to "teach them the right way to go about it, or let them stumble their way through on their own."
"Is cursive dead?"

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