Cursive writing

Growing up I hated cursive writing. When we learned it in elementary school I thought it was a stupid waste of time. The whole process of it seemed terrible and time consuming.

We were given these sheets in third or fourth grade and told that we needed to have immaculate hand writing. It felt like we spent weeks on them and I was not a fan. I did the bare minimum and didn’t put in very much effort. Like spelling tests and mad minutes our cursive worksheets seemed like a torturous waste of time.

Today I wonder what the point of spending so much time teaching kids cursive is when there are much more valuable things they could be learning. For example basic English grammar, Canadian history or civics. The number of Canadians who can tell you what happened in the War of 1812 is astoundingly low. We all know it was that time we beat the Americans but how we beat them, why the war actually matters and why it started very few Canadians would be able to say. For a war we talk so much about that was important in a variety of ways our actual knowledge is poor to nonexistent. (The answer is that it solidified a sense of Canadian identity as being separate from Americans and similar to one another, it settled our border with the Americans out to the Pacific by demonstrating that it wasn’t worth the cost of fighting over it and it showed that it would be very tough for the Americans to successfully invade after they originally thought the war would be easy to win.) The number of people I know who can pass the civics questions on the citizenship test is sadly low.

Our education system fails in a lot of ways, one of them is the amount of time it spends on things that aren’t terribly important. There is an opportunity cost to every moment of class time devoted to a particular thing over another and I couldn’t see the value of cursive writing. These days HTML and CSS seem more useful.

I had this argument with an old boss who said that cursive was important but couldn’t really tell me why. The hardened decision that it was a waste of class time and that the sheets were painful to do in elementary school hasn’t really faded. The number of kids in schools today who will get any value out of being taught cursive seems small. You should be able to read it and pick out the characters but having perfect writing and spending hours on it seems wasteful. I’m not opposed to learning cursive just the amount of time we spent on it. Perhaps our teacher got a little carried away or I was just miserable and magnified the time.

There’s only one group of people in this world that I can think of who actively use cursive writing: lettering artists and graphic designers. I am not a hard core lettering artist but I do dabble in hand lettering and quotes. I am now going back and teaching myself some of the cursive I didn’t bother with in elementary school. I remember most but not all of the lower case letters and know none of the uppercase letters. Today I had to google how to do a z when writing lazy days in cursive. At this point in my life it seems worth writing and practicing. I am actually using it for something.


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