Is Cursive Handwriting Going Extinct?

Joined-up writing: good enough for Abraham Lincoln!
Joined-up writing: good enough for Abraham Lincoln! Library of Congress

Is cursive handwriting, bane of impatient schoolchildren across the globe, soon to be a thing of the past? A recent editorial in Prospect Magazine suggest educators are coming around to the idea that perfectly scripted ABCs might not be so important after all:

We tend to forget, unless we have small children, that learning to write isn’t easy. It would make sense, then, to keep it as simple as possible. If we are going to teach our children two different ways of writing in their early years, you’d think we’d have a very good reason for doing so. I suspect that most primary school teachers could not adduce one.

It’s not just about writing, but reading too. “As a reading specialist, it seems odd to me that early readers, just getting used to decoding manuscript, would be asked to learn another writing style,” says Randall Wallace, a specialist in reading and writing skills at Missouri State University.

Has cursive writing ever been truly necessary?

A survey in the US in 1960 found that the decision to teach cursive in elementary schools was “based mainly on tradition and wide usage, not on research findings.” One school director said that public expectancy and teachers’ training were the main reasons, and that “we doubt that there is any significant advantage in cursive writing.” According to Wallace, nothing has changed: “The reasons to reject cursive handwriting as a formal part of the curriculum far outweigh the reasons to keep it.”

Hawaii, Indiana, and Illinois have all replaced cursive instruction with “keyboard proficiency” and 44 other states are currently weighing similar measures.

Sign up for our free newsletter to receive the best stories from each week.

More from

What if Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Published Today, Had Been in Comic Sans?
1968′s Computerized School of the Future

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.