Fact Check: Viral Posts Say Schools Don't Teach Cursive Anymore Because AI Can't Read It. Here's the Truth

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Claim:

Schools stopped teaching students how to write in cursive because AI tools cannot read it.

Rating:

Rating: False
Rating: False

Context:

In the past 20 years, whether schools should teach cursive writing has been frequently debated: In the mid-2000s and 2010s, cursive writing was largely discontinued in favor of typing skills. However, the practice has come back in the last decade. As of writing, 24 states have laws requiring students to learn cursive. Meanwhile, there are plenty of tools that can read cursive handwriting with relatively high accuracy, not all of which rely on artificial intelligence.

 

In mid-June 2024, posts advocating for cursive writing began appearing on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and X. The posts, shared using the same language, claimed that schools had stopped teaching children how to write in cursive in an effort to restrict freedom of thought. As the post puts it, "they" stopped teaching cursive "because it was compact, elegant, clear writing. Because it connects neural pathways that are only connected in this way. And because AI cannot read it."

Have you ever wondered why they don't teach kids to write in cursive anymore?"

And no, it's not a coincidence that they tend to use it less and less.

Writing in cursive means translating thoughts into words; it forces you not to take your hand off the paper.

A thought-stimulating effort, that allows you to associate ideas, tie them and put them into relation.

Not by any chance the word cursive comes from the Latin «currere», which runs, which flows, because the thought is winged, runs, flies.

Of course cursive has no place in today's world, a world that does its best to slow down the development of thought, to stuff it.

Think that cursive was born in Italy and then spread all over the world.

Why ?

Because it was compact, elegant, clear writing. Because it connects neural pathways that are only

connected in this way. And because AI cannot read it.

As with many widely-shared copypasta posts, there is a lot of information to unpack, and not all of it is relevant to the conjecture at hand. By largely discarding the flowery prose defending cursive in the middle of the post, we can simplify the claim into two facts we can then examine. First, that children do not learn how to write in cursive anymore, and second, that artificial intelligence cannot read cursive. Both of these statements are false.

Many Kids Still Learn Cursive

In the United States, school curriculum is set at the state level, not at the federal level. For a long time, cursive writing was a part of state curricula across the country because it was considered the traditional way to write. But with the arrival of home computers and the internet, some people began questioning whether it was worth teaching.

In 2010, in an effort to standardize the education curriculum across state lines, 41 states signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Cursive writing did not make the cut, and typing skills largely replaced it. But even before then, cursive was slowly being phased out of elementary school curricula across the nation — ask people between the ages of 10 and 25 years old to write in cursive, and there's a decent chance they'll struggle. In fact, former Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust opened her 2022 article in The Atlantic about the topic with a story in which two-thirds of the students in a history seminar she was teaching said they couldn't read or write cursive.

The backlash to Common Core's cursive cut was immediate. Faust referenced cursive defenders calling for its reinstatement in major publications, including The Atlantic and The New York Times, less than a year after Common Core's 2011 implementation.

It didn't take that long for cursive to come back in vogue, either. Mycursive.com, a blog dedicated to teaching cursive, maintains a list of states that require cursive to be taught in schools. In 2016, just 14 states had such laws on the books. In the next eight years, that number jumped to 24.

In other words, many kids do still learn cursive across the United States, although it's certainly less common than it was 30 years ago.

Computers Can Read Cursive Handwriting

The second problem with the claim is that, in fact, computers can read and decipher cursive handwriting, even without the use of large language models (artificial intelligence).

As just one example, anyone with an iPhone running higher than iOS 15 (released in 2021) can scan handwritten and cursive notes using the phone camera. Snopes tested this feature using two cursive handwriting samples to see how well it worked.

First, we ran it with relatively neat cursive that read "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," chosen because it contains every letter in the alphabet. The scan returned the text with just two mistakes — "fox" became "sop" (we admit, we're not sure how this happened) and the finishing flourish on the "g," in "dog" became an extra "s."

Second, we ran it with more "human" (read: sloppy) cursive that read "This is a test to see if Artificial Intelligence can read cursive handwriting." The scan returned the text as follows: "This is a toot to sce e Artificial dintelligence can read cursive bantwate." Certainly not great, but not that bad either! A person given the original message would likely be able to correct the typos without too much difficulty.

So while there are some problems and issues, there are absolutely pieces of technology that can interpret cursive handwriting.

One Final Note

When the message describes the origin of the word "cursive," (from the latin currere, meaning to run), it does so as follows: «currere». This is enough to practically confirm that this message was written by someone whose first language isn't English. Most written languages across the world use quotation marks. However, depending on the language in question, the style of those marks will change, generally using one of the following three styles.

First, there is the style used in German: „the leading quotation mark is on the bottom and the ending quotation mark is on top.“

This style is also common in many languages spoken in central Europe, like Croatian, Czech and Polish.

Second, there is the style used in English: "two quotation marks for the Americans," and 'one quotation mark for the Brits.'

This style is also commonly found outside of Europe. It's used in Indian languages such as Hindi and Tamil, as well as in Brazilian Portuguese and many languages spoken in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnamese or Thai.

Third, there is the style used in French: the double chevrons, called «les guillemets» in French.

This style is used in Romance languages, including Spanish, French and Italian. It's also used in Greek, Arabic, and many languages spoken in former Soviet states, including Russian, Ukranian, Belarussian, Kazakh, Armenian and Azerbaijani.

Given the presence of the guillemet quotation marks, Snopes suspects the post was written by someone whose first language also uses that quotation style.

Sources:

23 States That Require Cursive Writing in Public Schools. 17 May 2019, https://mycursive.com/the-14-states-that-require-cursive-writing-state-by-state/.

About Us - My Cursive. https://mycursive.com/about-us/. Accessed 1 July 2024.

California Signs Cursive Writing into Law – What Are the Brain Benefits? https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240122-california-signs-cursive-writing-into-law-what-are-the-brain-benefits. Accessed 1 July 2024.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. "Gen Z Never Learned to Read Cursive." The Atlantic, 16 Sept. 2022. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/10/gen-z-handwriting-teaching-cursive-history/671246/.

Geer, Wil. "The 50 Year History of the Common Core." Educational Foundations, vol. 31, 2018, pp. 100–17. ERIC, https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1212104.

Heubeck, Elizabeth. "More States Require Schools to Teach Cursive Writing. Why?" Education Week, 16 Nov. 2023. www.edweek.org, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/more-states-require-schools-to-teach-cursive-writing-why/2023/11.

"iOS 15 Is Available Today." Apple Newsroom, https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/09/ios-15-is-available-today/. Accessed 1 July 2024.

Loewus, Liana. "Why Don't the Common-Core Standards Include Cursive Writing?" Education Week, 10 Oct. 2016. www.edweek.org, https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/why-dont-the-common-core-standards-include-cursive-writing/2016/10.

Martin, Michel. "What Students Lost since Cursive Writing Was Cut from the Common Core Standards." NPR, 3 Dec. 2022. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2022/12/03/1140610714/what-students-lost-since-cursive-writing-was-cut-from-the-common-core-standards.

Povich, Elaine. "Around the Country, Some States Are Mandating Cursive Writing in Public Schools • Missouri Independent." Missouri Independent, 28 Nov. 2023, https://missouriindependent.com/2023/11/28/cursive-makes-a-comeback-by-law-in-public-schools/.

"Scan Text and Documents in Notes Using the iPhone Camera." Apple Support, https://support.apple.com/guide/iphone/scan-text-and-documents-iph653f28965/17.0/ios/17.0. Accessed 1 July 2024.

Tenner, Edward. "Handwriting Is a 21st-Century Skill." The Atlantic, 28 Apr. 2011, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/04/handwriting-is-a-21st-century-skill/237998/.

"Use of Quotation Marks in the Different Languages - EU Vocabularies - Publications Office of the EU." EU Vocabularies, https://op.europa.eu/en/web/eu-vocabularies/formex/physical-specifications/character-encoding/use-of-quotation-marks-in-the-different-languages. Accessed 1 July 2024.

"X.Com." X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/alextopol/status/1801895569641619665. Accessed 1 July 2024.

Zezima, Katie. "The Case for Cursive." The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2011. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/us/28cursive.html.