Cursive vs. Print: Is the Way We Write a Reflection of Our Culture?

Is cursive writing gone from our schools and from American culture? I remember going to Catholic elementary school in Buenos Aires where I loved the way they would teach cursive writing. It was more an art form than a mere tool for communication then. I have vivid memories of tracing every single letter of the alphabet with colored glue in cursive. Letters would flow; they were elegant and circular. They had movement and they inspired storytelling and poetry. My passion for writing and language was first ignited in first grade, thanks to the beauty of cursive writing.

My two sons love going to public school now but they have no passion for writing. I think it’s because they teach them to write in print. I volunteer in the classroom a lot, and I can see first hand they way these kids are first introduced to letters in kindergarten. Letters are square, there’s no flow. The process is very hard for a tiny hand.

Print writing feels interrupted, it looks a lot like writing while having the hiccups.

Small children can barely draw a straight line let alone write in print. But drawing in a circular motion, as in cursive writing, comes easy to them. The result is a dislike for print writing, which feels unnatural to them. It’s more like a hard task and less like a beautiful way to communicate.

I know that with computers and this technology age come changes in teaching. But I don’t understand why cursive isn’t taught anymore, especially in the lower grades. I see some children at our school who immigrated from Latin American countries – where cursive is part of any school curriculum – such as Venezuela and Colombia, and who write in cursive. They get it. They have it. It’s within them. Writing for them is easy and it just flows together with their thoughts. My kids on the other hand, who never had any exposure to cursive, are horrible at writing. But they are masters at handling computers, tablets and smartphones. A sign of the times I guess.

My wish is for cursive not to die and disappear forever in the United States. It’s such a beautiful art form. I wish that newly arrived immigrants could teach Americans their love for cursive or even calligraphy. And that American schools would embrace this beautiful and different way of writing brought by these foreign children. There is nothing more honest and pure than receiving a handwritten note such as an invitation, a thank you note, or a holiday card. In those few lines, the heart and soul of the writer is imprinted in paper.

Consuelo Lyonnet
consuelolyonnet@mac.com

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