Cursive handwriting – the new hieroglyphics

The family gathered in the living room waiting for our nephew to start opening his birthday cards and presents. He opened his first card and read it aloud. When he got to the handwritten sentiment, he had to pass it to someone else to read. “I can’t read cursive.” He said.

What?! What did my 14yr old nephew say? He can’t read cursive? What?!

Seeing my shock, my sister-in-law said, “They don’t teach cursive in school anymore.”

“What?! What do you mean they don’t teach cursive in school anymore?” I asked.

“You just wait.” She said. “You’ll see, once your boys get older.”

What I said next embarrasses me. The second the words came out of my mouth, I felt like the biggest snob. “Well, my kids go to a private school, and they learn cursive at their school.”

I had just isolated myself and my family from the rest of the world. That is to say, I drew a big and bold line separating public schools from private schools. I cringed.


I was signing a card for a sister of mine. Her birthday is June 16th. I realized I was writing the note in cursive. Being the smart-ass, I added a note at the bottom, “I hope you know how to read cursive.” When I passed the card around to my husband and kids for them to sign, Joe noticed what I wrote.

“Ha, that’s funny, Mommy. I can read what you wrote.” Joe is 7yrs old, and he just finished 1st Grade.


Later in the week, I dropped my sons off at camp, which Joe’s teacher is leading. After I signed the boys into class, Joe’s teacher stopped me and asked, “Would you do me a favor, please?”

“Sure.” I responded.

“Please have Joe write a paragraph every day throughout the summer. He can copy it straight from a book he is reading. It doesn’t matter what he writes, I just want him to practice writing. We are going to dive further into cursive when school starts again, and I want to make sure Joe is ready.”

“Cursive!” I said, as my eyes grew wide. “I’m glad you mentioned cursive. My 14yr old nephew is unable to read and write in cursive.”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes, the public schools no longer teach cursive handwriting, but we believe it is an important skill to possess. At the very least, we want the kids to be able to read cursive handwriting.”

I walked away grateful to have the boys enrolled in a private school, regardless of any perceived big bold lines or snobbery.


I think I heard mumblings a few years ago about cursive disappearing from the public schools’ curriculum. I didn’t pay much attention to the topic, because I either had no kids at the time or my kids were too young for school.  But now I am paying attention, and I am sad to learn the government school administrators do not believe cursive handwriting is an important skill to possess.

Can you imagine a world where Americans are unable to read cursive handwriting? How will people read the manuscripts of Shakespeare, Martin Luther, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, etc.? Good people, The Declaration of Independence was written in cursive.

Cursive handwriting has been around for centuries. Is it conceivable that cursive handwriting will become as mysterious as hieroglyphics? As a parent, as an educator – is that possibility okay with you?


In other news, I hope you will submit a caption in my Caption Contest. The top five captions will be posted Sunday morning, June 17th. Submit your caption by clicking here —> You Tell Me :: A Caption Contest

30 thoughts on “Cursive handwriting – the new hieroglyphics

      1. Both my public school-educated children (ages 8 and 9) can read cursive. My 9 year started learning the basic cursive letter formation in 3rd grade. However, my nephew at age 16 couldn’t read it. So maybe the public schools are swinging back to cursive?

  1. Oh, my. I did not know this. I write letters to my grandchildren in cursive, I just assumed they could read it. Now I must find out. I love cursive writing and when I take the time, mine can be, I’m told, quite pretty. Usually I am too rushed to take the time. I worked with a nurse whose handwritten nurse’s notes were a joy – she bought special pens and always took her time to carefully document. It was very important to her. I just wanted to go home. Now computerized charting has eliminated most of that…but I’ll always remember her beautiful script.

    1. I’m curious to hear what you learn, Katy. Kim said her son learned cursive in his school. Perhaps it is just a GA thing. That fact would not surprise me. Nice handwriting is a thing of the past, too. I love my Mom’s handwriting.

  2. This is appalling to me. I’m sitting in my insurance office looking at the matted and framed insurance policies that my husband’s great, great uncle hand wrote in 1878. The signatures are little works of art.

  3. Hi,
    What happens if you have to sign anything at all, are signatures going to became a thing of the past? Will we no longer have to sign special documents? It is ridiculous for children not to learn cursive. I have no idea if this is the case here in Oz, it would be interesting to know.

    1. I’m curious to find out if it is the same in Oz, Mags. Ask around and let me know, please. Come to think of it, though, the need to sign for things seems to be a thing of the past with online ordering, etc.

      1. I know a few people that will not use a credit card for anything online, I also know people that no longer bank online, 2 of those people had their bank accounts hacked, 3 had their credit cards details stolen.

        About 3 months ago one of our major banks was hacked into and for everyone that had online accounts it was not a good time. I think hacking will always be around especially as we become a cashless society. It will certainly be interesting in the future to see how all this pans out.

  4. The Beloved is involved in higher education and her mom was a grade school teacher, so we discuss this stuff a LOT. And there’s been a lot of “with the digital world it just doesn’t matter anymore” sort of arguments. I think it’s appalling, but what do I know?

    I recently received the most beautiful note on my desk from one of my co-workers. The cursive writing looked calligraphic it was so beautiful. She’s Russian.

    1. Something tells me other counties will continue the cursive handwriting. I could be wrong.
      I understand the Beloved’s argument with regards to writing, still I think the ability to read the writing is important.

  5. Thank God I grew up and even went to a public school that taught cursive hand writing. Would you believe, we received a grade on how well we wrote.. I’m 75 and still love to write like I was taught so many years ago. I have one daughter that writes cursive and two that have a kind of printing style. Oh well, I guess there could be worse things to worry about..

    1. I went to a public school, too, Libby. And yes, there are more important things about which to worry. That said, worry does little to no good, regardless of the topic. (smile) I hope you are feeling well. I send best wishes and prayers to you and Melody.

  6. This is a great topic. I have mixed feelings about the demise of cursive from curriculae. Like you, I can’t imagine a world w/o cursive, much less a world w/o cursive readers. But on the other hand, I hate cursive. I was never good at it. I’ve always envied those artistic types whose printing and cursive resemble art, while mine looks like something the cat urped up. And since I’ve had a computer….20 years? I’ve completely lost my ability to write with a pen/pencil. Even my shopping lists stymie me. There is no way my hand can keep up with my brain and what results is lost in translation.

    Also, I realize that education changes. It must change with the times. What was important for kids to learn in 1920 was not critical in 1950. What was important in 1950 is esoteric in today’s world of lightening speed. Kids are learning things that I don’t even have words in my vocabulary for. There is finite space in the human brain, so perhaps we need to focus more on the now than on the past.

    Your question about how people in the future will read manuscripts by the likes of Shakespeare or the Declaration of Independence, reminds me that today, only a handful of scholars are capable or even interested in reading the original writings of Plato, Chaucer, or the gnostic gospels. And your photo reminds me of the stacks of old letters from long-deceased family members that were written in old English cursive style. They may as well have been written in old German cursive because I can’t read them. Change is constant. It is hard to part with the past; we lose understanding when we lose the ability to read the past, but the world will continue.

    Great topic, Lenore. I am glad your boys are learning cursive…in spite of all I’ve just blabbered. They may be the interpreters for future generations.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Linda.
      At the very least, if they no longer want to teach cursive, I wish they would teach kids how to read it. The thought of that skill (to read) going to the wayside seems a foolish one to me.

      Also, like you mentioned, handwriting in general is becoming challenged. My handwriting is no where near as neat as it was before computers. I still love taking pen to paper. Now that the boys are in school, I’m enjoying taking pencil to paper and erasing mistakes! Who knew ‘old school’ could be so much fun!

      Change happens, and life moves forward. I simply hope we do not regret the decision to put cursive behind us. History has a way of repeating itself, perhaps because we forget to teach history.

      1. You know, I agree that the ability to read cursive still has merit. And..with cursive fonts, you don’t even have to be an artist with great eye hand control. They could teach cursive via keyboards! If it is looked as as just another font…why not?

  7. Sad but true. My first tip off that public education SUCKED and I mean that in capital letters was when our boys were in middle school — that’s when spelling no longer mattered in their grades — papers were graded for content, not punctuation, grammar and spelling.

    Apparently having “Spellcheck” to fix their spiling mistaks *spelled this way on purpose meant that their *wrong word purpose* was no reason to learn spelling, punctuation and grammar.

    We’re dumbing down our kids and it’s heartbreaking.

    1. Grammar has gone down the tubes, MJ. I tend to blame texting for that fact. Everyone is quick to abbreviate these days.
      I agree that we are dumbing downing our kids, and I agree it is heartbreaking.

  8. One of my sons had a teacher with a requirement that all class notes were in cursive. Yay! Cursive is a speedy way to take notes. Oh, wait, apparently clicking away at a keyboard is more speedy these days. Boo! I love cursive, particularly the beautiful handwriting of my grandparents’. I can’t imagine not being able to read old family letters. Great post!

    1. I like that teacher! Just goes to show you – teachers have the ability to make a difference. Good for him/her! I agree, cursive is a speedy way to take notes. With texting, I think handwriting in general is taking a back seat. Progression – it’s a mixed bag of good and not so good. Glad you liked the post, AA. Thank you.

  9. Um…..Jimmy learned cursive in a PUBLIC school right here in Alpharetta. Not sure what public schools your nephews go to but we are still learning it here.

    1. They stopped teaching it in Fulton County, Tracy. What grade is Jimmy? Gwinnett County is no longer teaching it, either. Jimmy may have learned it – but those younger than Jimmy are not.

  10. My Little Man was taught cursive writing this year (3rd grade). With his learning issues, he’s not to swift at reading it, and he can’t really write it, but yes, it is taught in our WA schools.

  11. I didn’t realize cursive is passe.’ I always got notes on my report card that said I needed to work on penmanship. I still haven’t, but maybe I need to reclaim this lost art. My mom said her dad wrote in old English, and how beautiful it was.

  12. Gwinnett County, GA, reinstated cursive in the 2012-2013 school year. It is now part of the spelling curriculum.

  13. I find the whole “we don’t have time to teach cursive” or “they need the room in their brains for other stuff” arguments to be ignorant. Kids have to learn to write, correct? It doesn’t take much more to teach cursive. I taught English in South Korea, and as an activity, taught them the basic English cursive alphabet. These were 3rd graders and even they found it interesting. I didn’t require them to learn to read or write it, but gave extra credit. By the end of a 40 min lesson, most of the kids could read the letters and many of them were able to write it. Also, I find handwriting to be an essential skill, especially fast handwriting. I wish I had been taught shorthand in school, because I find it difficult to keep up with dictations. I work in the medical field and we dictate patient rounds to each other daily. Being able to not only write fast, but also be able to read our own and others handwriting is essential. We can’t realistically stand around a patient while holding laptops and take notes. Some people have tried, but most revert back to paper. Also, a surprising number of young people in my workplace have a terribly slow wpm. So typing really isn’t the fastest way for many. I learned typing way back in the early 90s, and my wpm is much faster than most of my coworkers, who grew up doing most of their schoolwork on computers. When I have a difficult case, with changing timelines and notes from multiple sources, I’ll usually type those up IF time permits. But cursive is and will probably always be an essential skill in multiple work industries. ( and yes, we also use electronic medical records. We all hate the program because it is inaccurate, tempermental, and SLOWS. US. DOWN.)

That was my thought on the matter. Your comment?

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