I've tried, but I cannot come up with a single half-decent reason to continue teaching cursive in public schools. I'm ancient enough now to remember a time when we were writing out our book reports by hand, and even then it was a bad idea. When schools first started teaching us about the alphabet, we were all printing our names like this:
Then came cursive, and we all started writing like this for a while:
Fast-forward a few years, and suddenly:
This only works if you've got a Ralph Steadman inkblot thing going on like Napoleon did.
It is the erasable pen of writing techniques: all it does is drive kids insane. People do not write things in cursive if they want to make sure that others can read them, unless they are doing it for artistic purposes which few will ever employ. I say this as a person who writes in cursive for handwriting most of the time, but that is due to the fact that the only intended audience is myself. I need it for my personal shorthand system, which I use to write notes to myself. I don't care how these are written because nobody's meant to read them except for me. If I'm leaving a message for someone else, I print.
My Luddite tendencies aside, even I can admit that in this day and age it's more important to teach grade schoolers about typing. Thankfully, that's precisely what they're doing at Braun Elementary this year. For the first time, cursive is not on the curriculum. I may only be the librarian, but I'm glad to see that even public schools with encyclopedias that tell us Rangoon is the capital of Burma can adapt once in a while.
Cursive still has its defenders, though. The most anemic of responses to the public schools' phasing out of cursive that I've seen was in an editorial cartoon. One of those artists who loves harping on the idea that kids and poor people are lazy and don't want to do hard work (in spite of the fact that his own job is sitting at a desk and drawing cartoons) lamented something to the effect of, "How are our dumb kids going to learn what's written in the Constitution if they don't know cursive?" Textbooks aren't being printed with cursive fonts these days, are they? They aren't? Then I'm guessing they'll read the Constitution in the same way that everyone can read the Bible despite not being well-versed in the Latin language, sigla and brevigraphs, or German blacklettering.
My roommate was watching an episode of The Simpsons recently where cursive was being championed. Even the end credits were done in a cursive typeface. ("Audrey, get out here! You'll love this!") Tradition for the sake of tradition is the sort of conventional wisdom that the show set out to subvert when I was an elementary school student, but that was The Simpsons of yesterscore.*
My point: I'm not opposed to stepping aside to make way for progress if it's for a good reason, even if it's at the expense of something I have a fondness for. Plus, if nobody else bothers learning it, I can corner the market on wedding invitations.
* It's also worth pointing out that when you've been on the air for over 20 years, doing things just for the sake of not making a change suddenly doesn't seem like such a dumb idea anymore.
This column also appeared in Issue 01 of OWNLIFE magazine.