Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Demise of Cursive

The new Common Core Standards for schools is set to be implemented in 44 states beginning now and in the near future has been adopted by 44 states. What is dramatically missing from the core standards is any reference learning cursive handwriting. As this Standard goes into effect across the country, cursive handwriting instruction in public schools, which has been on the decline for years, will virtually disappear. As genealogists this should be a concern. We will soon have a generation that will not know how to write in cursive and likely will not know how to read cursive. How many millions of handwritten records do we have in our world? What will happen to those records if reading cursive handwriting becomes a lost skill?

We all know that keyboarding is so much more important than handwriting. Who need to learn to write by hand when we have computers? Right? Even if you ignore the benefits that come from learning handwriting when you are young such as better reading skills and coordination, think how hard it would be to learn when you are older and not as motivated. So is this just another hand-wringing concern or is there some valid reason for dumping handwriting instruction? The practical reason is that the schools are spending so much time teaching to standardized tests that they just don't have time to teach and unimportant skill like handwriting.

I did a Google search for writing and cursive and genealogy and I guess I am the only person in the world who sees this as a problem. My last post on this subject was a year ago and is the only thing that comes up with a search. 

Let me use an example. Let's suppose that I did not read German Blackletter handwriting sometimes called Gothic script. Let's also suppose I didn't read German. How long would it take me to learn how to adequately read the script? How long would it take me to learn to write the script if I didn't know how to hand write any other cursive script? Now lets suppose I go to my local public school. I never learn to use a pen or pencil to write in cursive? How long would it take me to learn to read cursive if I didn't know how to write at all? Could I read the 1930 U.S. Census?

By the way, my grandchildren can't tell time with an analog clock either.


  1. A google blogsearch on: genealogy cursive schools yields 54,000 results.

  2. I heard about this not too long ago. Here's another thought.... if people don't know how to write cursive will they simply "print" their name for a signature???

    I think this is incredibly sad and disturbing. Not only is this death to an alphabet, but it seems to be the demise of all things handwritten - love letters, poems, post-its.

  3. I made the same observation among my friends and colleagues. We have two people in our local genealogical group who teach a course on how to read old German script. It suddenly hit me that my own grandchildren may not be able to read artifacts I am preserving. As a retired teacher, however, I have very mixed emotions. Teachers have so many expectations today, and computer literacy is one of them. Something has to give -- and I guess I'd rather have them understand the power of a computer.

  4. It seems to me like most kids are graduating from high school with neither computer literacy nor the ability to read cursive. They know quite well how to text and use facebook (which are not difficult skills), but they don't really know how to use a computer as a tool. I talk to fellow students in my college classes who feel pretty smart because they just figured out how to make a basic graph in Excel. If they're skipping the cursive lessons for computer literacy, why don't students know how to make a graph or write a formula in Excel?

  5. If you want to see interesting discussions on handwriting and its future, just go to . I believe that this phenomena is mostly prevalent in the US. Other countries do promote handwriting and even require their students to use fountain pens. Something I heartily approve.

  6. Actually, our children know how to tell time with an analog clock....