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March 22, 2024

In Brief: The Case for Cursive in a Digital World

With student test scores plummeting further every year, is cursive writing really that important? Absolutely!

“Is our children learning?” George W. Bush infamously asked. His grammar was botched, but his question was good. Dr. Daniel Coupland of Hillsdale College makes the case for one thing our children should be learning: cursive handwriting.

America’s education system is becoming a total disaster, but we sometimes forget it’s not all bad news. For instance, this year, California will again require its school-aged children to learn cursive handwriting, and other proposals to bring back cursive are popping up nationwide. Cursive is making a comeback.

You might be thinking: With test scores plummeting further every year, is cursive really that important?

Absolutely!

In 2010, the federal government published the national Common Core education standards to help prepare students for college. Cursive was left out. Teachers and parents quickly found that children who never learned to write cursive also could not read cursive. Gen Z can’t even read letters from their grandparents written in cursive. That means much of the Gen Z cohort also can’t read primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence without remedial help.

Scientists have only just started making the case for handwriting, but the data indicates cursive has many knock-on effects, including a better grasp of grammar and spelling. Writing by hand has been shown to improve learning and memory. You think differently when you write by hand than by keyboard. Your thinking isn’t as distracted when writing with pen and paper.

Handwriting is also slower. There is less room for error, correction, deletion, or addition. That restriction forces you to really think about the connection between individual letters and individual words.

One little-known fact about students who write by hand: They are demonstrably better spellers. Studies suggest longhand note-takers demonstrate better information retention compared to their peers who use laptops. (Students using laptops tend to take more notes, not better ones.) The slow and deliberate attention handwriting requires plays a big part in that. For that reason alone, it should be promoted.

Those are all very tangible benefits, but Coupland also points to something more ethereal: beauty.

In its focus on beauty, cursive handwriting is an activity more formative to what parents hope for their children than any single standardized test could be. It uplifts a work-a-day practice like writing and recording into a transcendent good. Content mastery is essential, of course, but cursive instills in students an appreciation of craftsmanship and the importance of taking pride in appearance.

Read the whole thing here.

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