The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Columns

November 17, 2013

Murray: The dying art of cursive belongs in our schools

I can't sit here in all honesty and say I really, really enjoyed my time learning cursive.

Long hours of repeating the same upper case Rs and lower case Ws — writing out in so-called longhand "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" — doesn't create a lot of fond memories.

But there's a certain Zen in cursive. Most of us have average handwriting. But when done well, good cursive can almost stop you in your tracks. It can be beautiful, soothing, even artistic. Good cursive writing can be hypnotic to watch.

My cursive isn't all that good. Actually, if anyone ever tried to read through one of my notebooks that I've used to cover a news event, you'd swear it was the piece of paper everyone in the newsroom used to check if their pens had any ink left in them. It's atrocious. I'm not proud of it. But I can read it just fine ... Most days, anyway.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because the march of progress — the one that has turned our kids in to phone-carrying zombies and slaves to the latest handset upgrade and operating system version — is turning cursive into a casualty all over the country.

A bunch of states recently developed a new curriculum for public schools that eliminates teaching cursive in favor of things such as keyboarding. The thinking is this: as we progress through the digital age, the need to be digitally literate is only going to get more important. By the time kids in elementary school reach adulthood, occasions for them to need cursive are going to be rare.

You can count me in the digital crowd. Because I write for a living, and because I have to write a lot for publication, I'm constantly at a keyboard. And I can't remember the last time I sat down with a pen and a fresh sheet of stationary intent on writing someone a letter just for the sake of writing them a letter. So I understand the argument that the future is coming (and in many cases, is already here.)

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