Handwriting: No longer necessary?

Officials in Indiana have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting. In a few decades, no one who grew up in Indiana will be able to sign his or her name, said Theodore Dalrymple in The Wall Street Journal. That’s because state officials have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting—the looping, joined-up letters that have stood for centuries as a sign of education and sophistication.

Instead, students will be encouraged to focus on keyboard skills, on the principle that almost all writing today is done on a computer and a cell phone. Other states may soon follow, since the federal government’s core standards for schools make no mention of cursive handwriting. This is sad—and extremely shortsighted. Developing their own handwriting gives young people a powerful, and tactile, sense of their individuality and character. And when these schoolchildren grow up and have to sign a marriage certificate or will, will they need to “hire an out-of-stater or immigrant” to do it for them?

If only I could hire someone to sign my name, said Craig McInnes in The Vancouver Sun. I am “cursively challenged,” and the “meaningless scrawl” I call my signature comes out differently every time. Indeed, my handwriting has always been awful, no matter how many school drills I performed. Yet people still insist you can read a person’s character from their longhand. I live in fear of “having to write even short phrases on birthday cards,” in case the recipient concludes that I am an illiterate half-wit. Romantics may pine for the past, but give me a keyboard any day. In today’s workplace, said Kayla Webley in Time.com, knowing how to type is a vital skill. Knowing how to write longhand is as useful as “being able to churn butter.”

Cursive is far more than an “irrelevant relic” of the 20th century, said Mark Bennett in the Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune-Star. Studies have found that handwriting boosts fine motor skills in children, and writing things out by hand enhances comprehension and learning. Just as schools still teach math, even though “most of us rely on calculators to divide and multiply,” so should school districts continue to teach children both how to craft handwritten notes and how to type. Fortunately, many of Indiana’s third-grade teachers understand this, and say they’ll continue to teach cursive even if it isn’t required. The writing’s on the wall: Man cannot communicate by texting alone.

- As seen in The Week
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