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The case for cursive
June 28, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Is cursive obsolete? Are today's kids learning how to write cursive at all in school?
I was a little surprised when a witness in the Trayvon Martin case testified yesterday that she is unable to read or write cursive. Apparently, she had asked a friend to write a letter to Martin's mother for her and dictated the words, but was unable to read the actual letter when asked to do so in court. Based on a story in the New York Times earlier this year, apparently teachers don't consider it necessary to teach cursive any longer and most kids under 20 probably can't write it or read it.
I remember learning how to write cursive in the second grade and taking great pride in choosing the way I would learn to write an "E." I picked the old-fashioned curlycue version rather than the more standard E and that's the way I still write it. But, like most adults, according to that Times story, my everyday writing is a mixture of print and cursive. As a reporter, I probably still do more handwriting than the vast majority of people, who do everything with computers these days. I still carry a notebook and a pen to take notes at meetings and interviews. But I can't remember the last time I wrote an actual handwritten letter and I sign my name to exactly one check a month. It would be less than that if my rental company didn't refuse to take a debit card.
Still, cursive is one of those things I think still ought to be taught for the sake of tradition. Kids who can't read cursive also won't be able to read old letters or old historic documents, which bodes ill for their education. They also could end up embarrassing themselves in a court of law, as the witness did yesterday. I tend to think it's a good study aid, too. When I was struggling with a subject like geology, my preferred study method was to recopy my notes and the relevant text in the book over and over and over in a notebook until it sunk into my tired brain. Somehow, I don't think typing words into an iPad would have the same impact.
What do you think? Should they still teach cursive in school?
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