Does Cursive Need to Be Taught in the Digital Age?


Just like summertime temperatures, the cursive debate is heating up — especially now that the newly established Common Core standards don’t include the curly, looped handwriting style children have learned in penmanship classes for generations.

In response, some state legislatures are seeking to make it compulsory, like North Carolina where the senate passed a bill to make cursive a requirement in public schools. Supporters of the “Back to Basics” legislation, which passed 37-8 and also requires North Carolina students to memorize multiplication tables, said that cursive is important to know even in the age of keyboards and digital devices.

“[Students] have the right to know the same types of things we knew when we were coming along,” Republican Sen. Austin Allran, the bill’s sponsor, told the Charlotte Observer.

Those who argue for cursive insist that it teaches fine motor skills, is faster and more efficient than printed handwriting, and that it enhances the creative process and has other cognitive benefits. In addition, many historical documents will be illegible if people can’t read in cursive.

“Cursive writing is a long-held cultural tradition in this country and should continue to be taught; not just for the sake of tradition, but also to preserve the history of our nation,” Jimmy Bryant, director of archives and special collections at the University of Central Arkansas, told The New York Times.

Opponents say it’s time to let cursive be written into the pages of history.

“As we have done with the abacus and the slide rule, it is time to retire the teaching of cursive. The writing is on the wall,” Morgan Polikoff, an assistant education professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, argued in a New York Times opinion piece.

While the topic is polarizing, there are some people who fall into the middle, like Kate Gladstone, a handwriting expert and educator quoted on the topic of handwriting in publications as diverse as The New York Times to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Gladstone believes that cursive should be taught in our schools – but only to be read, not written.

“Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print,” Gladstone says. “Writing cursive, however, takes much, much more time and effort to master, even sketchily.”

Should educators take the time to teach children how to first draw and eventually to write these elaborate letters when there is so much more substantive curriculum? Gladstone says no because it’s not a worthwhile return on the investment of time and energy.

What’s more, most adults abandon cursive writing for a hybrid of mostly print letters joined occasionally in a cursive style. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.

“When even most handwriting teachers give up cursive, why would anyone else continue to exalt it?” Gladstone asks.

Handwriting matters, she says, and offers fine motor skills and cognitive benefits whether in cursive or not. But she insists that children should be taught efficient handwriting, which research shows is most legible and efficient when it combines print, or manuscript, and cursive letters.

Cursive isn’t required for legal documents, either. In state and federal law, Gladtone says, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind.

So is the writing on the wall for cursive? asked its Facebook fans – K-12 educators from all over the country. We got an overwhelming response – almost 800 comments. The verdict? Keep cursive writing in schools. Here’s what some of our fans had to say:

  • Get the high stakes testing out of elementary schools, and we’ll have time to teach cursive writing again!
  • The Constitution of the United States is written in cursive. Think about that. I make my kids at least learn to read cursive.
  • Not everyone has a computer and printer.
  • Absolutely teach cursive. Teach everything possible, exercise those brains, grow neurons, every little bit of knowledge helps us THINK!
  • Handwriting is much more personal and I still prefer it on cards and in mailed letters. I use it for people I really care about on special occasions and other appropriate times.That being said, most of my day-to-day communication, including this post, is on a laptop.
  • For most of us, cursive is faster than printing. Speed is often the difference between getting the facts down correctly during note-taking, and trying to figure out or remember what the first part of the note referred to. Since note-taking remains part of the academic experience, and notes are often shared/compared, it’s nice to have consistency for readability–especially for one’s self.
  • I’m glad I learned cursive and know how to teach it. It is much faster for taking notes in a class and you can write really classy thank you notes. Manuscript is important, too, for clarity in filling out forms. Learn both and don’t always rely on a keyboard.

Let us know what you think in the comments below or visit

  • Karen P.

    I think that teaching cursive is important to the extent that the student can read it, and also be able to at least sign their name using it, or a hybrid of it and printing. Everyone has a signature style that develops over the years. If students never learn cursive, they will sign everything using printing only as they will not even have a clue how to put cursive and printing together to create a hybrid. Can you imagine looking at pages of legal documents that look like they were signed by a 6th grader? If everyone goes to printing, you may as well just have them make their mark like the illiterate do. Obviously, we do not need to spend weeks and weeks on cursive anymore, but students should be able to write a few sentences that use all of the letters in the alphabet and sign their names.

  • Gay Lynn J

    It’s faster to write in cursive. I know when I taught in China folks were mighty impressed with it, like it was writing with characters. Of course it’s no where nearly as complicated as that. It can be quite distinctive and pretty. But mainly, it is faster than print. If print will never disappear, then cursive should not either.

  • Kristi

    Absolutely it should be taught. The debate that we live in a digital age should not matter. With that way of thinking, why teach how to read. Potentially all literature and textbook can be audio files. I just took my 10 year old son to get his dependent Military ID and he had so use cursive to sign his name. The administrator was impressed. He said a lot of 18 yr olds don’t know how. It’s a sad country we live in if we can’t teach our children to write.

  • People need to be able to read cursive and have a signature. A cursive signature may not be required on legal documents, but not having one is not good for one’s image. A printed signature is just this side of signing with an “X.” It’s not going to happen on my watch.

  • This is one of the most balanced articles I’ve seen on this debate! I appreciate the most one option I had not read anywhere else to date: to teach reading cursive without requiring the mastery of writing cursive.

  • Are you literate really means can you read and WRITE. When I see a job application I can’t even read due to poor penmanship….it gets trashed

  • Cynthia

    I teach Financial skills in high school, including check writing. I also have to teach the majority of my students how to sign their name. I think this is sad, it doesn’t say print your name here, it says sign your name, which is in cursive. Legal Documents of all types require a signature, not being able to sign denotes a lower IQ and I believe will affect them later in life on the job and in their personal life. Teach cursive!!

    • tasmia55 .

      I understand where you’re coming from ,but I am a highschool student and I dont use cursive for any of my classes. Yes I understand you need cursive to sign your name and read important documents such as Declaration of Independence but I think that the Declaration of Independence will be available on the Internet.

  • Don

    Many of the comments above seem to equate being able to write in cursive with being able to write. The purpose of writing is to communicate, whether it is to fill out a job application, tax form or a note to a friend. We should be teaching neat penmanship and how to communicate effectively in print. The style of print is irrelevant in my opinion.

    Should students be taught to read cursive? Absolutely. If they can’t read cursive, they will lose access to (historical) information. That and they won’t be able to read the birthday cards from their grandparents!

  • Janet

    I think cursive still needs to be taught. I only write in cursive because that is what I learned starting in 1st grade; I had a very traditional teacher in the 80s. This lead to my teacher also teaching us calligraphy at a young age and I love it!

    My high school students cannot read anything I write because it is not taught to them previously, and if I give them copies of primary documents such as the Deceleration of Independence or any of Jefferson’s letters, they cannot read it. Our students are missing out on such a rich part of our history because they cannot read cursive at all.

  • Carole

    As a third grade teacher who recently made the decision along with my administration to do away with cursive instruction, this is a poignant topic. The common core requires us to teach typing and have children in third grade type their written assignments. This is no small task and takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. It is not that my students and I don’t want to do cursive – my students and I, in fact, LOVE cursive writing – but cursive is losing it’s position on our list of priorities due to a simple lack of time in the day. I am sure they would love to learn origami and fencing as well, but we do not have the time to do so. I have heard it suggested that cursive be moved to the art class, and that makes a lot of sense to me as it can be quite artistic. When you think about it, folks these days, especially those between the ages of 15 and 30, do not do very much writing with a pencil or pen anymore. We may not like these changes, but I do believe they are inevitable.

  • Carl Clark

    I have always understood that it was necessary to make strong connections in brain development for the young child, outside of all of the other arguments for functionality in the real world-which I agree with also.
    The current issue of Psychology Today has an article about the benefits of brain development and cursive by Dr. William Klemm Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University: “Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.” This establishes a powerful argument for the need of cursive in our rapidly computer based world, even if it is modified later in life.

  • M.L. Duffy

    The day is coming when it will probably be obsolete. But it’s not here yet. I think everyone needs to be able to write both cursive and manuscript. For the future, my son will probably see the day when only artists and musicians have the fine motor skills to write cursive. And I view that as a severe loss for the general population, society, and future anthropologists.

  • J.Ray

    Personally I still use cursive every day. However, I understand that many choose not to do so. What troubled me about students not using or reading cursive was that they also mixed upper and lower case letters randomly and ignored punctuation and spelling. They would try to submit an essay written like a text message. Ultimately, they just seemed uneducated! Soon it will be only those educated privately or in other countries who can read and write English well! How sad! Perhaps we can use cursive as a secret code that is not understood by those under 30…..

  • “Cursive” is only one style of script, and far from the best. Other styles — like Italic, Blackletter, and Secretary — are much more legible, faster to write, easier to teach, and just plain handsomer, than Cursive.

    BTW, why doesn’t the article mention that actual studies have shown that not just teachers, but the fastest and most legible handwriters in general, don’t use Cursive some other style? Look at to see one of the latest.

    –Leslie < Fish

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  • Though my sixth grade teacher bemoaned the fact that my cursive writing would never be more than C+, I have easily used cursive wrtiing my entire life. I would never have made it through several college degrees without being able to quickly take notes, much faster than those who printed. As a teacher for numerous years, it is so sad to hear the students say, “Miss, I can’t read that.” When I say the writing is legible, the response always is, “I don’t know how to read cursive.” I find that ridiculous and limiting. Then, there are those who do not have a real signature, since they can’t write in cursive, and, when it is so illegible, it would be hard to tell what it was, printing or cursive. Hand written notes, though most younger folks do not share my preference for them, are the most sincere type of note or letter one can send. The studies regarding fine motor skill development and cognitive development which support cursive writing show the need for it, enough so that it should be continued/reintroduced in our public schools.

  • Don’t “dumb down” our kids. Less is not always more. Cursive writing is a skill that will improve fine motor functioning. The application for social use has changed but is not gone.

  • Jan Bowersox

    The loopy Palmer Method most of us learned “way back when” is not he ONLY cursive handwriting form! I am a calligrapher, and I much prefer the italic with joins, a kind of easy to read “print script.” I am appalled, though, that students do not know how to form their alphabet letters and numbers (writing from top to bottom and left to right). Many write from the bottom of the letter to the top, or do the loop of the letter “b” first and they end at the top of the straight part! That is backwards and inefficient!
    A study at the University of Washington is following a group of students doing creative writing, some on computers and some using handwriting. So far, the handwritten work shows more creativity.

  • jreddog1

    Cursive is absolutely a return on investment. Once you teach cursive writing it stays with you forever.

    So, what if people use a hybrid later in life? They still know how to write cursive if they want to. That is like saying “why teach a kid to ride a bike, one day they will drive and it will be unnecessary.” Once they know how to ride it stays with them for a lifetime. “Why teach a kid to swim? They will never live near a pool, well maybe just teach them to float should they fall in a creek.”

    I think the real reason is that some parents and educators are tired of fighting with students. It is tough and sometimes it does hurt your hand, but I am 42 and the days of hurt hands are long gone, BUT I know how to write cursive.

    The logic of – computers are the way of the future and handwriting can be reduced to printing – is flawed and it is embarrassing that we are buying it.

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  • Bill Hillyard

    My 10 year old grandson had a birthday party at which he received several cards with money or gift cards. He could read the cards but could not read people’s congratulations or comments. He could not read cursive. I am appalled that students are not even taught how to form letters correctly for printing. He told me as long as they look all right it’s OK. It is very depressing to see him print a letter. Not oly is his printing not very legible but it takes him so much longer than if he had been taught how to correctly form the printed letters.

  • Judy Cummings

    I help K-5 students via reading support at a Title 1 School. Over the summer, I suggested learning cursive to one of my third-grade students, whose mind tends to skip from subject to subject. He has fallen in love with writing cursive as his hand focuses his mind at a particular time in space. He is a very bright third-grade boy, and when he told me how much he enjoyed learning cursive, I mentioned to him that it might not be taught anymore– that there is an ongoing educational controversy over how important the teaching of cursive is in the digital age. His response to me was, “It would take just one solar flare to knock out all the digital age, Mrs. C., I really think that we need to continue teaching cursive for the sake of civilization.” I agree.

  • It needs to be taught for many reasons. Script makes brain connections that print does not make. The very connectedness stimulates that activity of making connections with various bits of data. Do you want to eliminate this from education of the young? Hand writing is brain writing…one cannot write or print without the mind/body connection. And each type of writing works the system differently. Be careful what is eliminated. Also many young people today cannot read script…this includes the Constitution, The Bill of Rights…and many historic pieces. Do you really want to cut the younger generation off from this in the public schools? Many European schools require their students to write their answers in script rather than by computer.And usually in fountain pen. Classical education isn’t cheap but it is thorough.

  • Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)
    Further research demonstrates that the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the print-writers nor the cursive writers. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them – making only the simplest of joins, omitting the rest, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive,” of course — .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

    Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes imagine that cursive has taught them grammar, etiquette, or finesse — that it has made them stunningly smart — or that it has granted them other blessings which are no more abundant among users of cursive users than among the rest or the human race. Some users of cursive claim to have research support — citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
    Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, then verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.
    The individuality of print-style (or other non-cursive style) writings is further shown by this: six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the writing on an unsigned assignment) which of her 25 or 30 students wrote it.
    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
    Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

    /3 Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:



    (shows how the fine motor skills develop in handwriting instruction WITHOUT cursive) —

    Yours for better letters —
    Kate Gladstone • Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works •

    = Sent from my iPad Air =

  • Jim C.

    I just don’t understand the logic that says, “we don’t need cursive, because everyone writes on the computer nowadays.” So, using that logic, kids don’t need to be taught addition, subtraction, multiplication or division because they can carry a calculator with them. In fact, they don’t need to know how to read because everything can be read aloud on their iPod or iPhone. In fact, why teach the rules of English grammar and punctuation since nobody uses it when they text or e-mail? To me, same logic, same argument as teaching cursive.

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  • Jerry L.

    The schools today are teaching one thing only and that is the Standards of Learning (SOLs) required by the Federal government. If they are successful in “killing off” cursive – which they seem determined to do – it absolutely WILL NOT result in any improvement to our children’s education. Simply a further “dumbing down” as we chase the Federal dollar (which was in our pockets initially).

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  • Taylor

    I am writing an argumentative paper for my English class, my topic is to keep cursive handwriting in schools. I found this very helpful and contained good information.
    I myself do believe that cursive handwriting should continue to be taught in schools, honestly it does not take too much extra time to teach cursive handwriting, it is very easy to catch onto when it is taught.
    I have a child and when he gets into school I want him to be taught cursive, if not thru the school then I will be doing it myself.

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  • Lolly

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  • Dana

    I want my kids to learn Cursive but it was dropped from the Curriculum in my son’s school when he was in 3rd grade. Now he is in 5th and needs to sign some documents and does not know cursive. I am going to buy workbooks and teach both my children at home – the problem is they will never have an opportunity to use it at school. All the writing assignments are either computer printed or handwritten – in print, never cursive. So I will teach them but not sure how well it will “stick” since they will never be using it. Maybe it is just a waste of time and I should just teach them to sign their names……..

  • Mailer Mainer

    I teach Financial skills in high school, including check writing. I
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