Cursive writing: Who needs it anyway?

In the news this week: teachers are no longer required to teach kids cursive writing. Kids still learn out to print; they just don’t learn the weird letter formations looped together. And if they don’t learn how to write bs and rs in the cursive way, they won’t be able to read them either.

Media reports predicted doom and gloom—our children will no longer be able to read handwritten thank you letters from great-aunts. Horrors.

When I heard the news, I thought to myself, “Well, at least my kids know how.” They are 18 and 15 years old, and cursive writing was part of their curriculum. When the topic came up in conversation at dinner though, my son said, “I can’t read cursive.”

“What?” I said, shocked. “I remember watching you practice writing.”

“Yeah, for about two weeks in Grade 3.” He shrugged. “When the teachers write cursive on the board, I can read it better than some, but . . .”

Shocking to think that in 100 years our handwriting will be like hieroglyphics to next generations, or that university courses will teach how to read cursive.

But maybe it’s not as bad as all that. After all, most cursive letters mirror the printed version. Kids decipher the meaning from the letters that match and the context. And handwriting in the last generation has deteriorated anyway as people reject strict form for creativity and individuality. When I look at my aunts’ handwriting, theirs could be used as part of “How to Write Cursive” instruction manuals: perfect letters lined up in perfect rows. Mine? Not so much. My bs and rs look like the printed version, and many letters don’t get looped together at all. I did two writing samples: one of my usual handwriting and one in proper cursive. I had to struggle to get cursive right. I had to look up how to write the z. The bs were particularly hard. I guess I’m part of the crossover generation.


Kids don’t learn to write and read cursive because they don’t need to—societal evolution at play. That’s not the only way they are different. Ask teenagers the time, and they won’t look at a watch. They don’t even have watches. They look at cell phones.

I wonder what will shock my kids in another 30 or 40 years? Maybe keyboards will become obsolete, and my kids will be shocked to discover my grandchildren don’t know how to touch-type. Who knows?

In the meantime, if you need to communicate on paper with a teenager, might be a good idea to print.

4 thoughts on “Cursive writing: Who needs it anyway?

  1. Hazel

    If kids don’t learn cursive writing, how is their signature going to be different than their printed name?

  2. Michelle Cockerham

    There are plenty of studies that verify the cognitive benefits of cursive handwriting that go beyond utilitarian usage of cursive handwriting. But far more important is that the founding documents of our country and the writings of our founding fathers are written in cursive. If we want to remain a free republic, our children must retain the ability to read and study primary source documents in their original form.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Thanks for dropping by my site. I agree with you in so many ways. Every morning I write morning pages longhand, and I find there is no comparison – creatively – when I write this way. That’s where all my wild and wacky stuff comes from! However, more and more children have laptops in school because, cognitively, they function better with a keyboard than with paper and pen. Maybe there is no one-size-fits-all solution?

      I’m Canadian, so I’m not a citizen of a republic, but I am a citizen of a democratic society. I sure hope our freedom doesn’t rely on handwriting! I think it goes deeper into our value system than that.


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