The Script That Got Away - Cursive handwriting fades out

Within the last five years, teaching cursive has been gradually phased out of grade school curriculums across the country, much to the dismay of those who nostalgically yearn for the days of meticulously stringing those curly letters together. However, many from more recent generations remember the learning process a little differently.

“I thought, ‘This is how I’m going to be an adult,’” chuckles Allison Olmstead, senior in printmaking. “But then as soon as we learned it, that was it; it was like we never talked about it again and It was just up to us whether we were going to actually use it or not.”
 
This sentiment has sparked an ongoing debate on the value of the script. Cursive opponents state that if no one ever really uses it, there is no point in wasting valuable class time teaching it.
 
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a movement to revamp the education system. It aims to put “a focus on results rather than means,” and initiative hopes to better prepare students for college and careers starting earlier in their scholastic career.
 
The standards no longer require teaching students cursive as part of its curriculum. Starting in third grade, students will instead be required to produce writing via keyboarding skills “as well as to interact and collaborate with others.” All but six states, Alaska, Texas, Montana, Nebraska, Illinois and Virginia, have adopted the Common Core State Standards since its announcement in 2009.
 
The Common Core Standards do not eliminate cursive instruction – just minimize it. However, some states are voluntarily removing it from their curriculum entirely. Within the last year, Georgia and Kansas decided to remove the teaching of cursive in schools statewide.

Nicole Hamonic finds this disconcerting. She teaches both Medieval Studies and Latin here at UT, and often spends hours pouring over ancient handwritten documents.
 
“Cursive handwriting developed for ease of communication,” she says. “Speaking historically, the movement away from epigraphy, which is the carving into stone or wax tablets or wooden tablets, to parchment and paper allowed for cursive handwriting to develop.”
 
But one could suggest that today’s new technology was created with this same sort of efficiency in mind. With text messages, e-mail, and social networks easily becoming the driving force of how we now communicate, cursive almost seems cryptic – a handwriting style more reserved for signing documents, checks and receipts at restaurants.
 
While Hamonic agrees that technology has indeed changed and will continue to change how new generations learn – she admits that she often finds herself skimming things and finds it tiring to read long passages in one sitting – still, she doesn’t understand why states are choosing to completely disregard teaching cursive, and she cites a gap between new technologies and the “dying” script.

“With digital computer graphics,” she muses, “does that mean we’re not going to teach our kids how to color and draw either?”

It may seem far off to imagine a kindergarten classroom with pen tablets instead of crayons, but in a world ruled by technology, cursive handwriting may one day be recognized as merely a font.
 
Lucida Handwriting, anyone?