While we're all in a lather over 21st century skills, the elegant, practical skill known as cursive handwriting appears to be going the way of the horse-and-buggy. The problem is two-fold. First, the advent of technology and its requirements--typing and text messaging--means students are using pen and paper much less than in days of old (you know, the 1980s). But compounding the problem is that schools have stopped teaching cursive to youngsters. Teachers report that when students handwrite assignments, their manuscription is strictly in print, literally; reading cursive is like tackling another language. "It's a bit like going for a root canal for them," explains Mark Bradley, a teacher at Rio Tierra Junior High in Sacramento. On a recent timed writing exercise, just one of Bradley's 65 students wrote in cursive. But does it even matter? Well, if you want to sign your name, enjoy a letter from your grandmother, or read the "secret" cursive notes of an older sibling it is. Furthermore, studies have shown that cursive is important for cognitive development because it requires "fluid movement, eye-hand coordination, and fine motor skill development," explains Frances van Tassell, an associate professor at University of North Texas. Seems flowing penmanship is more than just flowery embellishments; it'll be a sad day when Gadfly's grandchildren can't read his Christmas cards. 

"Some schools refuse to write off cursive," by Melissa Nix, Sacramento Bee, December 30, 2008

"The dying art of cursive," by Megan Downs, Florida Today, December 29, 2008

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