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Is Cursive Dying?

picture of practice writing

I have noticed in recent years that fewer of my college students turn in work written in cursive. This past week I did an survey in my classes and discovered that only 15% of my students write mostly in cursive. In fact, one student said that the only thing she knows how to write in cursive is her signature.

At the time my wife and I were growing up in northwestern Ohio, we were taught the Zaner-Bloser method of writing cursive, beginning in second grade. I remember hardly being able to wait to learn it so that I could write like the older kids and grown ups.

Here's what the Zaner-Bloser letters and numbers that we were supposed to emulate looked like:

picture of Zaner-Bloser cursive

I worked hard to perfect that skill and have been told through the years that I had neat handwriting, for a guy. A few years ago some of my students were having a hard time reading what I'd written on the board and the overhead. I attributed it to my handwriting, rather than to the fact that I'd written in cursive. I think now, though, that it was actually the cursive that was throwing some of my students. Here's what my writing looks like — I'll let you decide whether it's legible.

picture of my handwriting

I do understand the frustration of some students, though. The semester I took Chinese, our teacher was out for part of the semester on maternity leave. The substitute teacher wrote on the board one day in Chinese cursive. I was having a hard enough time reading Chinese characters as it was, let alone throwing cursive into the mix!

Our children went to Bob Jones Elementary School where they were taught precursive then later cursive using the handwriting curriculum from the BJU Press [1].

Here's a sample of what PreCursive looks like:

picture of PreCursive

All three of our children have very nice handwriting as adults. Megan and Mark write mostly in cursive and both have beautiful handwriting. In fact, one of Mark's colleagues asked him to address all her wedding invitations for her! Nora's handwriting is her own style that is a sort of printing joined together like cursive, with a very distinctive and pleasing effect.

Since two of our children are elementary school teachers, I asked them what is done in their respective schools. Megan who taught in a Christian school for 7 years wrote:

Faith Christian School starts with printing (the "precursive" Bob Jones version), and they learn cursive in second grade. Handwriting is part of the curriculum. The teachers require the students to write in precursive until they learn cursive, and then they will mostly write in cursive. There are a few times when they can print, but most assignments are supposed to be written in cursive. Most of the teachers write on the board in whatever form they expect their students to write. I always printed on the board, but the upper elementary teachers wrote in cursive. I usually write in cursive myself.

Mark and his wife Katie both teach in the Greenville County School system. He wrote:

Handwriting is a part of the curriculum for the primary grades, and cursive is taught in third grade. Penmanship is graded all the way through fifth grade. Print/cursive is optional and is really left up to the individual teacher after third grade. Some people have even considered doing away with cursive since so much is printed from computers. So, I guess we'll have to watch the debate for the next few years and see how it goes.

I almost always write in cursive, and Katie writes in print in personal writing. Katie writes in print on the board, and I switch back and forth.

One of my cousins in France was a preschool teacher. As we talked one time, comparing schooling in our respective countries, she expressed shock that we start children out with block printing. She said that French children start with cursive in preschool since it is so natural and just flows. (I just knew I should have been born in France!!! I would not have had to wait until second grade!)

I'm not going to try to make a case one way or the other about cursive vs. printing. As I prepared for this post, I found lots of places on line where this has been debated at length, and there are very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Some believe strongly that writing in cursive is an important developmental skill. Some believe that cursive is no longer necessary, though I would think that people will eventually not be able to read old documents written in cursive script.

I would mostly like to know what my readers use in their lives. If you comment to this post, please give your age, what you were taught in school, which style of writing you use, and if you were taught cursive at all. It will be interesting to see if there was an approximate time when most students stopped using cursive in favor of printing. Is cursive dying or is it being put to death?


"Genesis is God-breathed, non-revisionist history." — Drew Conley

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