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Home | Opinion | Op-Ed: Hey kids: Let’s learn a useless skill!

Op-Ed: Hey kids: Let’s learn a useless skill!

Here is a little game you can play with your coworkers: try to find a document at your work that is written in cursive from beginning to end. Go ahead I will wait.

How many did you find? I suspect that it was very close to zero.

Here is the next game you can play: Try to remember the last time you had to read a document that was written entirely in cursive. Go ahead, I will wait. Was it last week? Last month? Last year?

Can you even remember a time?

Here is another: When was the last time you were asked to write something in cursive for your work? Received an email in cursive? Read a book in cursive? Read a road sign, a billboard, a loan application, a mortgage, a car lease, a divorce decree? The truth is, unless you have a job as a calligrapher, you do not need to use cursive writing at all in today’s modern world.

Writing in cursive simply is a skill that is no longer necessary in today’s world. Sorry fans of longhand. The ship has sailed. The train has left the station. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

You are reading this online, in print type, where I would venture to guess nearly 100% of the writing is presented in non-cursive format. Have you been negatively impacted by that fact? Has your brain suffered? No, you don’t even realize that nearly all writing is in print format because print is so ubiquitous. Thank you Mr. Gutenberg. Your revolution is nearly complete.

Yet, despite a nearly 100% lack of any kind of need, starting next year in elementary schools all across Texas, resurrected like a character in the Walking Dead, cursive writing as part of the newly adopted English Language Arts TEKS will begin to be taught again.

Proponents of this “kids need to learn a dead skill” initiative cite several reasons for bringing it back. The first is the disproven notion that students need to know cursive writing in order to read historical documents like the Constitution. (Debunked about a year ago). In fact, you don’t need to know how to WRITE in cursive in order to READ in cursive. Those are two completely different skills.

A student can be taught to read cursive in about 30 minutes. You don’t have to know calligraphy in order to read the Coca-Cola logo, do you?

The second is that learning to write cursive somehow improves hand-eye coordination in little ones. Perhaps this is partially true, but so does learning to play an instrument, painting a picture, drawing, and playing video games. Data from research indicates that cursive writing has no greater benefit to students than any of those activities, yet we don’t have “video games” as part of the standard curriculum.

So why the push to bring it back?

The TEKS , those standards that your child is mandated by law to learn and school districts are obliged to teach, are not free from political influences and pressures. What your child learns in school is subject to legislative arm twisting, lobbying efforts by hundreds of organizations, and hearings by multiple committees and departments.

In a red state like Texas, we often are pressured by lawmakers to return to a fantasy world that never existed, where mom stayed at home dutifully vacuuming the carpet daily, dad brought home the bacon, and all the little white children were above average. You remember those days, don’t you?

Those days were the days when all the little children learned how to write in cursive, so that they could send Grandma a Christmas card each year, handwritten, making her so proud. You remember right? No you don’t.

The problem, of course, is that world didn’t really exist, except in the imaginations of politicians who continually mistake ’50’s and ’60’s TV sitcom families for reality. The fact, separate from the fantasy and the voices in their heads, is that many of the skills taught back then are not needed today. We taught Latin as a matter of course in many schools “back then.” We don’t teach Latin, except in some select places, anymore. And good riddance. Latina mortua est.

Cursive writing was put back into the TEKS because of some crazy longing for “the good old days” that really never existed except in the minds of east Texas white Tea Party Republicans. Qualem blennum!

Cursive writing, like Latin, is nearly dead. Want more proof? After 5th grade, there is not a single TEKS that revisits cursive writing. Not one. In any subject. In other words, the skill is completely ignored after students leave elementary school, never to be seen again. T

hat is 4 years (2-5th grades) that is wasted on a skill of very little value other than to make some east Texas blue haired ladies that taught elementary school in the 1950’s happy. For the next seven years a child is in school, they will not be asked to write a single thing in cursive. Not a single thing.

The STAAR test won’t be written in cursive, and the written responses can be submitted in cursive or printed format. Of course, if they are taking the test online, print is the default.

Teaching cursive handwriting should go the way of the educational Dodo bird. We have quite a few of those dead skills and classes that we, as a society, have tossed aside because time and technology have made them useless. Sliderules, keyboarding, “Home Ec” and how to shoe a horse are among the thousands of things we have relegated to the dustbin of educational history.

It’s time we send cursive writing there as well. Let’s teach kids skills that they actually will need to succeed in their futures, not some politician’s fantasy past.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

About Tim Holt

Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

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16 comments

  1. Does anyone notice the irony in the picture that the INSTRUCTIONS for how to write in cursive are in print?

  2. I didn’t read the article as it seems like it has been published before. I have eighth graders who can’t read cursive. Good luck trying to read your diploma or degree if you listen to Holt.

    • Hi Rob, as an educator, you know that READING and WRITING are two completely separate skills. Teaching students to read cursive is something that can be easily taught ( I feel like your students may never have been taught that skills) and is a completely different skill than writing in cursive just as reading the printed word is different than writing printed work.

      Thank you for reading my column.

  3. How do you “sign” your name on official doucments?

    • HW Bill Sparks:

      Many “official documents” use electronic signatures now-a-days. My personal cursive “signature” is a crazy mutation of the way I learned to write in grade school and has very little to do with what I was taught.

  4. Mr. Holt, I looked for information to counter your argument and found several articles but only read one:
    http://www.cursivelogic.com/why-cursive/

    The information in the article is interesting and states several reasons how learning cursive benefits children. Personally, I feel there are “worse” things you can teach students (like Calculus) because there is less need for them (unless your job requires it).

  5. First of all, thank you for reading this column,

    Most of the responses I have read here and on Facebook are based on these things:

    1: Nostalgia: I learned it so my kids should learn it or some such longing for the old days.
    2: Misconception: It is “faster” than other forms of not taking. If speed is the issue, then why aren’t we teaching stenography instead of the Palmer method?
    3: Misunderstanding: You need cursive to sign documents. You do not.
    4: Misunderstanding 2: Cursive is harder to forge. Any signature is unique, cursive, printed…
    5: Misconception 2: Further proof of how schools are falling apart. As I stated in the article, there are other ways to teach hand eye coordination such as teaching drawing.

    I also would like to point out that every single person that has responded did so in a PRINT format, not in cursive. Did anyone have problems because you were typing? Would your typing have been entered faster if you were somehow able to do so in cursive?

  6. Wondering out loud

    Can anyone point out a situation where cursive writing is required in your current job?

  7. The Original MAGA

    Thank you for COMPLETELY dismissing MY childhood. Just because YOU didn’t experience something doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. The reference that you made to TV lifestyles is EXACTLY how I grew up. I’m not going to comment on how wrong or right you might be on the cursive debate because once you so flippantly dismiss something that is important to some people (albeit not you) then it doesn’t matter what else you have to say. Besides, you never listen to the oppositions comments anyway. You always have to be right.

    “Cursive writing was put back into the TEKS because of some crazy longing for “the good old days” that really never existed except in the minds of east Texas white Tea Party Republicans.” Can you back that statement up with FACTS? or is it just more Liberal white bashing rhetoric? That is an offensive statement. So is this one, “and all the little white children were above average”.

    One (at least) of the schools in YOUR school district recently asked kids to do a project. A project that required doing on-line research (that you are so fond of). As part of that project, students were required to write letters based on historical events from the selected timeline. A major component of that project was the historically accurate use of writing, in cursive. Why are your teachers REQUIRING students to use skills that YOU say are dead?

  8. The Original MAGA

    You obviously didn’t read my comment. I told you I don’t give a flip if adding cursive back to the curriculum is right or not. That wasn’t my question . I asked you to prove you comment that this is driven by the white republican tea party. I read some of the articles that you presented and they are all aboit the cursive issue and many are written by white men. You made a derogatory comment about white Republicans and I would like you to back it up with facts. That’s all I’m asking. I don’t care about your opinion on the subject. Democrats are quick to blame rich white Republicans for EVERYTHING but can never back it up and always change the narrative when pushed on it, as you are doing now. You always use this media to drop your little political beliefs on us in a very passive aggressive manner. I’m just calling you out on it . If you can’t backup your comments, fine. Just be more careful in the future. A lot of people rely on your “expertise”. You have an obligation to be accurate

    • Dear OMAGA,
      I look forward to your well thought out rebuttal to my column, proving beyond a doubt how nostalgia for the good old days and far right GOP members do not influence the decisions of lawmakers and policy creators in our state or nation’s capitols. The folks here at EPHP love all kinds of points of view, and I believe they will gladly run your own column just as long as you sign off with your real name.

      So go ahead and rebut away. That is what points of view and opinion pieces are all about.

      Prove me wrong. The ball is in your court!

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