The state of Ohio has decided to kick off the new year by forcing children to learn cursive by the end of fifth grade. The move follows a similar piece of legislation that went into effect in Alabama in 2016. The Carolinas, Massachusetts, California, Florida, and Georgia all have mandates that require schools to teach cursive as well.
These laws are wildly stupid.
No one under 50 writes in cursive anymore. It’s 2019 and typing on a computer is literally my job. It’s very likely your job, too. The only time in my adult life I needed cursive was to sign the back of my credit card, and even that's unnecessary. It is a useless skill with an ever-diminishing role in the modern world and requiring a new generation of children to learn it is idiotic.
I couldn't find anyone in the VICE office who would argue a pro-cursive position, so I searched "why is cursive important" on Google to try and find a counterargument. I promptly found a listicle detailing six reasons we should teach cursive, and I'll admit one of them—that cursive might help kids with dyslexia—made sense. But that's not enough to subject all children to a dying "art."
Cathy Brewer, who teaches penmanship and so likely has some bias here, told Ohio news outlet Local 12 that, "It helps us to reinforce the information so that data that comes through our eyes to the brain to the hands is being reinforced when you have a physical motion to tie it all together,” which, sure, I guess? But wouldn't that also be the case with writing in print? The word nerds at the Pioneer Institute argue that students should learn cursive because it would allow them to read historical documents such as the US Constitution and Magna Carta, as if no web pages on all of the internet contain transcripts. In print.
Other reasons for making kids learn cursive are also garbage. Marilyn Slaby, a Republican in Ohio's House of Representatives and advocate for the cursive law, said teaching it should be essential because, "You're not just teaching the sound of the letter; you have so many things you can teach along with it that it begins to make sense." What? That reasoning makes no sense, and it wouldn't make more sense if it were written out in cursive.
Still unconvinced, I texted my mother, who is a strong advocate for handwriting. Here is what she said:
(By “contests,” she meant “contracts.”)
"Will signatures all be printed or electronic?" Again, all this brouhaha for signatures!? Jesus Christ, in ten years we will probably all sign everything with our thumbprint anyway. Maybe the chip in our brains will “sign” for us.
I believe what is ultimately driving this obsession with saving cursive is the parents who believe that whatever they did, their kids should have to do too. This sentiment seems popular among the old people who share memes like, “Part of the problem of the world today is no one snaps peas with grandma anymore.” I’m sure there was a mom years ago who insisted their kid snap the damn peas when you could just buy them at the store, but when a practice grows outdated, the wisest action is to just give it up.
Instead of going on a crusade for cursive, I propose that we make other essential skills mandatory. For one, only 13 states required sex education to be medically accurate in 2017. Ohio and Alabama, two states that mandate cursive, are not on that list.
Furthermore, we should mandate that students learn how to pay for college should they choose to attend and give them instruction on what other options are available if they don't. Maybe then we’ll have some hope of getting out of this student loan debt crisis.
Or hell, just bring back shop classes.
I can see how cursive may be helpful to some kids, but by and large the arguments for forcing children to learn it are weak as hell. Unless you’re tattooing “grace” above Justin Bieber’s eyebrow, cursive is not an essential skill these days.
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