Sorry, but nobody writes in cursive anymore. Missouri schools don’t need to teach it | Opinion

Goodness, I hate writing cursive.

Some people love it. They enjoy and admire the flourishes, the art and the discipline that go into writing “longhand.” (Does anybody use that word anymore?) My late mother had the prettiest handwriting you ever saw. It’s still a delight to see her penmanship on old letters and recipe cards.

Good for those folks. Me? I hate it. Won’t do it.

Probably that’s because I’m left-handed. For many of my fellow lefties, cursive writing is a form of physical torture — an act that requires unnatural hand-and-wrist contortions which often end in failure: a cramping palm smeared with blue ink, the words on the page smudged into something unrecognizable.

These failures would probably weigh more heavily, except I don’t really need cursive. Almost nobody does.

Except for my signature, I don’t think I’ve used cursive writing much at all during this century. My laptop keyboard works just fine. If push comes to shove — meaning pen to paper — I can print in block letters. It’s not fancy or pleasing to look at, but it gets me where I need to go.

Not everybody agrees, of course.

In Missouri, state Rep. Gretchen Bangert, a Florissant Democrat, is trying once again to pass a law that would make cursive instruction mandatory in public schools. And really, you have to admire her dogged determination: She has tried and failed to get this law passed six times already.

This year’s attempt is the seventh, and last. She’s leaving the Missouri House soon, thanks to term limits.

Why is cursive so important to her? History.

Learning cursive is important because our primary source documents, many historical documents, notes and letters were written in cursive, including our Constitution,” Bangert told the Missouri Independent.

What’s more, she said, studies suggest that putting pen to paper is more developmentally stimulating for kids than tap-tap-tapping all day on laptops and tablets.

Again, I’d like to be sympathetic here. Bangert certainly seems to have good intentions. And there’s plenty of evidence that replacing pen and paper with internet-connected devices has helped create a culture of distraction in classrooms. We’d probably all be better off if students had to wait until they were 18 to get their first iPhone or iPad.

But in fairness: When was the last time you consulted an original, cursive-written copy of the Constitution?

Unless you were visiting a museum, my guess is never. If you’ve ever had to look up the Bill of Rights — an occupational hazard in journalism — you’ve probably mostly seen it printed in books or on websites in plain text.

The words didn’t lose their meaning in the translation to a different type of writing.

As for brain development: That’s good and important. So is teaching kids skills they’ll actually use in life.

The plain truth is today’s youngsters almost certainly won’t use cursive in their “real” lives — at all — unless they become historical research specialists, or just enjoy sending well-regarded thank-you notes.

Why should they? Today’s adults who mastered cursive back when it was a requirement in school don’t really use it anymore, and they haven’t for a long time. In 2012, one survey of handwriting teachers found that just 37% wrote in cursive. That number has almost certainly declined in the dozen years since then.

For the record, more than 20 states reportedly mandate cursive instruction. Current standards in both Missouri and Kansas recommend — but don’t require — that cursive be taught in elementary school. Educators in those states are largely choosing to spend their limited class time on other priorities.

That’s fine. Public teachers are already buried under a ton of mandates and standardized tests. If you’re going to add a requirement to the pile, it needs to be really important.

Cursive isn’t.

It’s just an old-fashioned script for an old-fashioned age, pretty to look at but not the way anybody really communicates anymore. We don’t paint hieroglyphics on cave walls, either. Thank goodness. That would make my hand cramp, too.

Joel Mathis is a regular Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle Opinion correspondent. He lives in Lawrence with his wife and son. Formerly a writer and editor at Kansas newspapers, he served nine years as a syndicated columnist.