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Death of Cursive Handwriting: Will It Make Historical Documents Indecipherable?

The drumbeat of lamentation of how cursive handwriting is dying continues (It seems like every year we have a post on the death knell of cursive, so why should 2011 be any different?)

Young people rarely use cursive anymore, and that may be fine for their daily communication needs, but consider this report by Katie Zezima for The New York Times: the death of cursive also means that a growing number of historical documents will become indecipherable to them.

Jimmy Bryant, director of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Central Arkansas, says that a connection to archival material is lost when students turn away from cursive. While teaching last year, Mr. Bryant, on a whim, asked students to raise their hands if they wrote in cursive as a way to communicate. None did.

That cursive-challenged class included Alex Heck, 22, who said she barely remembered how to read or write cursive. Ms. Heck and a cousin leafed through their grandmother’s journal shortly after she died, but could barely read her cursive handwriting.

“It was kind of cryptic,” Ms. Heck said. She and the cousin tried to decipher it like one might a code, reading passages back and forth. “I’m not used to reading cursive or writing it myself.”

Link | The Atlantic has the counterargument


My signature has become nothing more than a parody of cursive; it's just a scrawl now. I can still read neatly-penned cursive and maybe legibly write with it, but it's just not something I find worth bothering with. I prefer my nearly type-set printed hand writing.
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I have been working on my cursive as an adult for about three months. It is actually really nice. I used to write only in print block letters, but my letters and journal's tone have shifted slightly from the rhythm change that is generates.
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Young people (and a lot of adults) are already not reading or paying attention to historical documents. They'll soon just have a better excuse than being idiotic.
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This is pretty sad. Cursive is such a beautiful and much more efficient way or writing. I write in print when it's a few words or so, but when it comes to writing letters or blocks of text, cursive every time.
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I'm a college student in my early twenties and I often take notes in cursive because it's the fastest way to write. Most students that want to take notes fasts use their computer though. I'm sad that most kids in the future won't learn cursive but I can see why they would cut it out of the curriculum though, as there are more important things to be taught (like computer skills, for example.)
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Horse riding skills have declined too, and yet we survived.

This is a non issue. If something is not needed anymore: it will disappear. If something is still needed: it will not disappear. Doh.
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I am in my early twenties and I clearly remember taking cursive in third and fourth grade to the point where everyone in the class at least understood how to do it (if not well.) From that point on, our teachers always required us to write in print so that they could actually read what we wrote. I think that alone is a sign that this is something that shouldn't have focus on it for every student.

I know people who have self-taught handwriting (and one who has taken classes that also included calligraphy.) Art forms like this are not generally lost quite so easily. There will be people who can read cursive and those who can't and that is just fine.
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I work on the weekends proctoring computer-based tests (GRE, MCAT, TOEFL, etc.) The testing company requires (among other things) that the candidates rewrite a statement basically saying that they won't cheat, and they must write it in cursive. I think that two, maybe three people HAVEN'T complained about having to do it in the time I've been working there.

It's just sad how few people are proficient anymore, especially considering how much faster and easier it is to write in cursive.
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I remember going in to take my SAT around 5 years back and we had to write some agreement in cursive. I'd say about 3/4 of the kids started to panic because they couldn't write it out properly. I couldn't help but laugh as a sat there watching them all ask to see a 'z' from the proctor. Pathetic.
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I'm late to the party here, but a coupl eof comments:
1. My regular pen is a fountain pen. With computers, I don't write as much as I did taking notes in college, but a fountain pen is WAY easier to right fast with than just about anything -- there is virtually no friction so your hand doesn't get tired nearly as easily.
2. Difficulty reading penmanship is a big problem modern Germans have reading Sütterlin handwriting. This is a form of cursive handwriting that was only taught in Germany during the early 20th century and is pretty tough to read if you aren't used to looking at it. Here's a link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%BCtterlin
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I hardly doubt that, we've been taught how to write in cursive since school. Its a compulsion in many decent schools across India.. I still write in cursive, a habit that's been force fed into my hands/brain since my 1st std
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P.S: We started using a fountain pen since 4th std or 5th std, and using a fountain pen was like a puberty thing in schools. ;)
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