The “Good Old Days” aren’t coming back.

Cursive handwriting, tablets, and embracing the future

In a 21st-century world in which smartphones are king and most businesses have some kind of app for their customers to download, we are still talking about cursive handwriting in grade schools.

In July 2016, the Washington Post published a piece that explored whether this special type of handwriting was making its way back into public school curriculums. Even lawmakers were getting in on the debate.

An op-ed appeared in the NY Post in February 2017 arguing why schoolchildren should still learn cursive, even today. Business Insider speculated in March 2017 also that teaching cursive again to children was on the rise.

Handwriting is certainly a necessary skill even in the digital age, so yes, children should be taught early on how to write legibly. Cursive is often thought of as not just for its aesthetic value, but also because it is known faster than printing, because the letters link together. As noted in the Business Insider article, some critics wonder if such instruction is a worth the time. Their concerns are legitimate.

In the workplace today and beyond, technology skills are a must, regardless of industry or level. Even a lower-level job in retail or foodservice will probably require an online job application as well as basic computer skills on the job itself. Professional positions often ask for an uploaded resume and depending on the nature of the job, a digital portfolio. Maintaining a website, social media pages on different platforms and often some kind of smartphone app is crucial to reaching potential clientele in modern society.

In other words, kids need to learn technical skills in school not because they “have it easier” but because they won’t be employable without them in the decades to come.

Today, few employers are interested in an applicant’s ability to write cursive or display near-perfect penmanship. Few businesses use typewriters or handwriting to communicate. They do need to know about that person’s ability to not just use technology but willingness to adapt as it changes. Even entry level jobs in most industries use some form of technology, from retail and foodservice, to education to healthcare. University or college classes almost always require the use of the Web.

Learning how to write by hand is a necessary skill. Throughout life, the ability to quickly jot something down by hand (legibly) comes in handy. As a 33-year-old with years of work experience and a college degree, I will vouch for this. It’s good for kids to have these skills and for the record, I don’t think kids of any generation should let those skills die, nor should they become dependent on devices for tasks as simple as writing a note.

But spending excessive amounts of time and energy lamenting the lack of cursive script in schools seems out of place when several schools across America are underfunded. Teachers have to prioritize the use of their time in the classroom, and students need the time to learn and practice skills that they will directly need to take to the workplace if they hope to obtain jobs after graduation.

Schools have the same basic obligation they always have: provide students with the necessary skills to survive in tomorrow’s world, not yesterday’s. While handwriting will always have a place in the world, technology perhaps has a larger one, for better or worse.