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The term “cursive writing” refers to a handwriting style in which all the letters in one word are connected as part of a single stroke. In one form or another, cursive has been used since the seventeenth century. This style of penmanship is sometimes called “joined up writing” in Britain or "running writing" in Australia.
Recently, many parents of young children have started to notice that cursive writing appears to be a lost art. With computers becoming commonplace and most teens preferring e-mail and instant messaging to handwritten letters, it’s not surprising that proper penmanship is on the decline. In fact, many young people can’t write much more than their own names in cursive.
However, experts are somewhat conflicted as to whether or not this represents a problem with the United States educational system. There are some who feel the lack of proficiency in cursive writing is indicative of a general decline in overall literacy skills, but others insist that the movement towards typewritten communication is simply a sign of technology evolving.
It can certainly be argued that the importance of proper handwriting has greatly diminished in recent years. Schoolchildren are almost always required to turn in typewritten essays and most office workers would never dream of sending their supervisor a handwritten memo. Even the postal service discourages the use of cursive writing, since it often causes errors with the optical character recognition software used to sort and process mail.
However, cursive writing does have its own advantages. Since there is no need to pick the pencil up between letters, cursive writing is typically faster than printing. Handwriting is also very useful for situations where it’s either impossible or impractical to have a laptop handy. In addition, students who have learning disabilities often find cursive writing to be easier to master than printing or typing. For example, since the letters in cursive penmanship are joined together, students with dysgraphia are less likely to confuse the letter “b” with the letter “d” when reading a document written in cursive.
Will cursive writing ever completely be eliminated? The introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act has put public schools in the position of making difficult curriculum decisions. Teaching cursive writing is quite time consuming and often impractical when you’re dealing with students who can already print and type. School administrators, when placed in the position of losing federal funding or eliminating handwriting instruction in favor of additional lessons in math and phonics, may very well choose to get rid of cursive writing for good.