Is Cursive Still Necessary?

Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin's friend, admitted during her testimony that she can't read cursive. She's not alone.

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Rachel Jeantel questioned by Don West (Getty Images)

During Thursday's testimony in the George Zimmerman second-degree-murder trial, the defense cross-examined Trayvon Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel, with whom he was talking on the phone when Zimmerman shot and killed him on Feb. 26, 2012. During the cross-examination, defense attorney Don West gave Jeantel a piece of paper to read for the record. But she said she couldn't read it.

Why? The text was written in cursive, and Jeantel said she can't read cursive. That got us thinking: Is cursive going the way of the dinosaur? Is it still needed in our technology-infused world? A Mashable article breaks down cursive instruction in schools:

In the United States, somewhere around the third grade, cursive handwriting instruction has long been a sort of milestone, or rite of passage. But in recent years, the nation's Common Core State Standards — which at least 45 states and the District of Columbia, have voluntarily adopted — took out the requirement for cursive instruction in K through 12 schools. It has stirred quite the debate, since it's up to each individual state to decide whether cursive is important enough to teach its own students. In recent months, North Carolina legislators approved a bill to require its students to learn cursive in elementary school, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. North Carolina joins states like California, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have already added a cursive writing requirement, according to The Associated Press.

The article goes on to quote occupational therapist Suzanne Asherson's claim that it's still necessary:

"In today's world ... children need to know how to both use keyboarding to type, as well as being able to pick up a pencil or a pen and be able to write," Asherson said. "Both skills are necessary and should be taught to our children in order to have functional adults who are efficient in their jobs and in the real world."

However, Kate Gladstone, director of the World Handwriting Contest, says in an opinion piece for the New York Times that handwriting is necessary but cursive isn't:

Handwriting matters, but not cursive. The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree ...

Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

Read more at Mashable and the New York Times.

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