awareness that learning cursive is an
artistic skill. As with most visitors, she
likely paid particular attention to the
signatures that appear on the charter
documents. Not only is each pretty in
its own way, but each also reflects attributes of the signer’s personality.
Second, the 6-year-old sage acknowledged that learning cursive is a milestone on the path to becoming a grown-up. Her expression that she can’t wait
revealed her recognition that learning
cursive is an attainable skill. Her optimism left no room for complaints that
deciphering is too difficult or that using
fine-motor skills is too challenging.
Third, she knew that when you
learn to write cursive, you learn to
read it too. Her desire to know what it
says signaled her understanding that
learning cursive is a practical communication skill that will enable her
to both convey her ideas (without an
electrical device or satellite) and make
Learning cursive is a practical communication skill that will enable her
to both convey her ideas and make sense of those penned by others
in the past, present, and future.
sense of those penned by others in the
past, present, and future.
Although the young girl did not
mention it, the mere fact that her parents brought her to see the Charters of
Freedom suggests a fourth reason why
cursive writing is worth teaching. This
reason does not have to do with the acquisition of a skill but involves instead
an important ability. Learning cursive
contributes to our capacity to imagine.
A handwritten document is evidence
of a specific moment in time when a
fellow human being put pen to paper.
Although the document cannot actually
transport us back in time, it can connect
us to that moment in a very tangible way.
This is true not only for the big and famous documents, but for the small and
seemingly insignificant ones as well.
Finally, if we do not teach students
cursive writing, large portions of our
collective past will literally be inaccessible to them. Untyped words will
be unintelligible and cease to have
meaning. Lessons that might have
been learned and inspiration that
might have been found will be lost.
We are all stewards of information,
and, as educators, we play a vital role
in preparing our students for the stewardship roles that they too will play.
Teaching cursive is an important component of this preparation.
—Lee Ann Potter is the director of education and
volunteer programs at the National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA) in Washington,
D.C. She and her team (Stephanie, Michael,
Megan, Becky, Dave, Judy, Denise, and Missy)
discussed and wrote this response together.
As a special education teacher, it
pains me to see students who are able
to multiparagraph compositions but
are unable to put pen or pencil to
paper to write more than a sentence.
Are we not supposed to give weight
to content? What about those students who, because of some physical,
learning, or cognitive challenge, are
literally unable to write? Speech-to-text software allows these students to
access the curriculum. Should they be
penalized on some arbitrary standard
because they are unable to write in
cursive? I do not think so.
Many who remember the hours
they spent practicing cursive skills
wax poetic on this subject. I remember it too. The significant portion of
my school year that I spent learning
flourishes and circles, trying to link in
my mind what I learned as print on
paper and page to what I needed to
learn for cursive, making sure there
were no reversals, and practicing
The significant portion of my school year that I spent learning flourishes
and circles, trying to link in my mind what I learned as print on paper
and page to what I needed to learn for cursive, making sure there were
no reversals, and practicing loops and lifts were hours I could have
been working on other skills.
loops and lifts, were hours I could
have been working on other skills.
I could print quite well. Why did I
need to learn how to write all over
again? What other skills, abilities, or
knowledge could I have learned or
expressed in that amount of time?
If we as educators are to maximize
student learning, support Universal
Design for Learning and access to
curriculum for all, and prioritize in-
struction, then we need to accept that
some skills should be moved to the
realm of nostalgia and that the tools
for those skills should be relegated to
collections and museums. Inkwells
are now gone from student desks.
Fountain pens are novelty items. Cur-
sive instruction, although lovely and a
reminder of earlier times, has no place
in modern education. We need to look
forward, not backward.