Has Technology Killed Cursive Writing? (Does Anyone Care?)


By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki


Sure to spark debate, today’s article in Mashable asks the question: Has technology killed cursive writing? Is penmanship still important in an age where we can efficeintly tap everything out on a keyboard?

According to the article, the nation’s Common Core State Standards took out the requirement for cursive instruction in K through 12 schools. However, it’s up to each individual state to decide whether cursive is important enough to teach its own students. Recently, North Carolina legislators approved a bill to require its students to learn cursive in elementary school, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. North Carolina joins states like California, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have already added a cursive writing requirement.

Some argue that the benefits of cursive handwriting extend beyond faster printing and actually help brain development. Suzanne Asherson, an occupational therapist with the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California, says:

Putting pen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this age of e-mails, texts and tweets. In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.

What do you think?  Are we holding on to an outdated practice for nostalgic purposes or is it a valuable skill that should not be eliminated in schools?

7 responses to “Has Technology Killed Cursive Writing? (Does Anyone Care?)

  1. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

    Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant. (Examples include the material of an OT you cite.)

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

  2. A yes or no vote is impossible for me. Perhaps others have put in italic handwriting for “other.” Basic italic letters are easily made with natural hand movements. They then flow into cursive italic with no changes in letter formations. Italic is the practical answer to all of the handwriting controversy, but who’s listening?

  3. Hatzmann, Ralf

    good training for eyes and hand, for proportions and releations between lines and space

    • Ralf — that training is found in good performance of ANY of the styles of handwriting; it isn’t unique to cursive. Keep in mind,motor, that many people simply cannot manage to learn cursive well enough to benefit from its particular complications.

  4. Voting yes for all of the reasons given and more. There is no personality to the keyboard, and removing the uniqueness of a signature and style from the communication process further reduces the “personhood” that technology often seems to impact. Note the spelling error in the first paragraph of Ms. Pinto’s article – likely would have been caught and challenged if hand written. Keyboard has the potential to dumb down the communique with spelling and grammatical errors. Does it matter? I think so

    • kategladstone

      Spelling errors abound in handwriting, too — including cursive handwriting — or the red pen would not have been a far older invention than keyboards.
      The fact that handwriting is individual, by the way, doesn’t limit that individuality to cursive. ALL of the many styles of handwriting — including even their most inept renditions — vary individually.

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