Back in 2013, I was surprised to learn that 45 states have signed on, or maybe I should say “signed off,” on dumping cursive from their elementary education curricula when they agreed to the Common Core curriculum standards. See The New Script for Teaching Handwriting is No Script at All, in the Wall Street Journal. (Note: It might be behind a paywall.) As of mid-2023, however, about half the states still do require teaching of cursive. The others do not.
To Read or Not to Read Is the Real Issue
After reading the article, and several of the comments, it seemed to me that everyone involved in the debate was missing a key point. We might not ever be able to convince a majority of young people that they should learn to write in cursive, but surely we should convince them that they need to learn to read the cursive writing of others, including that of their parents, their grandparents, and the Founders of our country?
Some comments elaborated on what one would miss if is unable to even read cursive writing, but really it just comes down to what education is all about, i.e., learning. The bulk of the history of the English-speaking world is written history, not oral history, and much of that written history was first put down in cursive. Are we now to decide that students should not even learn to read that history?
To Write or Not to Write Is A Different Matter
I can see the point of those who claim that instructional time is wasted teaching legible cursive writing, especially when so many adults today don't bother to do so. But surely enough time should be devoted to educate every child to read cursive. Once one acknowledges that need, and it is a need if we are talking seriously about education, it's obvious cursive writing shouldn't remain a mystery to high school graduates. And maybe a case can be made that the best way to learn to read cursive is to be instructed in writing it.
Regardless, this is a typical case of "tossing out the baby with the bath water." While a child, even a child of 8 or 9, might reasonably be given the choice whether or not to perfect his or her handwriting skills, that same child should be given no choice at all in the decision whether or not to learn how to read cursive. To do otherwise is to cut that child off from his own cultural past, something we seem more and more prone to doing lately.
Would those arguing that cursive teaching should be abandoned altogether not concede that some school time is worth expending in the effort to teach a child to at least read cursive? To argue otherwise would be to argue that because one can't write like Shakespeare, one shouldn't have to be bothered to read him either. Baby and the bathwater again.
Why not start slow and early? There are plenty of fonts in the various word processors that mimic cursive writing. Put a poster up in the classroom showing each of the 26 letters in both uppercase and lower case in one of those fonts. Then pass out a page, or send to their tablets, a passage with a challenge to decode it. Prepare the passage in that cursive script and let students work on figuring out what it says. Then switch fonts from time to time and see how they adapt to the changes. All cursive writing isn't the same, so mix it up.
I'm not a classroom teacher but I know they're imaginative people generally and will be able to come up with hundreds of ways to get their kids interested in what that next coded cursive message will say or how else to use this idea. And if they leave school unable to write in cursive (not a big loss, frankly), they'll still be able to read it.
Of course, if students are learning to write cursive in school, they'll also be able to read it and none of this is necessary, plus their parents and grandparents won't be stewing over it either.