See You in Hell, Cursive Writing
The former president of Harvard has written an elegy for cursive writing in The Atlantic, noting that Kids These Days weren’t taught it (it slipped off national curriculum standards in the 2010s), don’t read it easily if at all, and wonders what this means for their ability to access the past, as many documents are handwritten, and many of those are in cursive. Future generations will see cursive as a curiosity at best and an almost foreign language at most.
Which, eh. I’m not too worried about it. For the people who want to know it, it’s not actually that difficult to pick up; they taught it to second graders, after all, a group of humans not well-known either for their intellectual prowess or their magnificent hand-eye coordination. That plus the fact that computers are pretty good these days at recognizing handwriting of various levels of atrocious, and turning it into readable type, suggests to me that the past will not be all that impenetrable to future scholars, and others who have interest in history. Scholarship should survive just fine.
Anyway, the writing was on the wall (so to speak) for cursive a long time ago. I’m 53, was taught cursive in school, and have not used the skill for anything useful or important in literally decades. I started seriously writing right around the time first Macintoshes came into existence, so my entire creative/professional writing career, and mental discipline for writing, is centered on the computer as my writing tool. At no point, save for an occasional poem or song lyric, have I written creatively by hand. On the occasions that I do write by hand, for example when I’m signing books, it’s in standard, not cursive, script, consistent with my preference since I was a kid, and marginally more legibly for me and others in any event. Once I was not ordered to write in cursive (coinciding with the end of my elementary schooling), I didn’t, and anyone who gets handwritten notes from me should be grateful.
(Which is not to say that I didn’t occasionally hand write things; in high school I developed my own personal script that I would use to make notes or comments. People who see it now suggest it looks vaguely like Tolkien script, which I suppose it does, but it wasn’t intentional, since it predates me ever seeing the Tolkien script. I’m pretty sure since I’ve been fourteen I’ve written more things in my secret script than in cursive.)
I do know people who write in cursive for fun — friend and fellow writer Mary Robinette Kowal loves to send handwritten notes to people, and I can attest these notes are delightful to receive — but I suspect most people from Gen X downward conduct the majority of their written communication electronically, or at the very least, typed. I don’t personally notice a lessening of personal feeling or intimacy because these are the formats current generations prefer. They will indeed present a challenge for future archivists, in the sense that electronic media are ephemeral and bit rot is a real thing; I’d guess that will be an equal or greater task for these archivists than reading cursive.
So, yeah. I won’t be lamenting too much the end of cursive as a living script. It was never really a part of my life outside of elementary school and was of limited utility even then. I’ll stick to keyboards and computers, and limit handwriting to signing books and the occasional check (speaking of things becoming rapidly obsolete). This has worked for me so far. I suspect it will continue to.