Who cares about cursive today at Nashua High School South?
Students still looking for a New Year’s resolution might consider boning up on their cursive; it’s in decline at Nashua South.
An informal poll showed only two South teachers – both in the English department – require students to turn in their handwritten work in cursive. Cursive skills have declined to the point where students can no longer read it when teachers write it on the board, their grandparents use it in letters, or when they read copies of the original U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
When South senior Shannon Joyce was asked how often she used cursive, she said hardly ever. "Only to sign my name," she said.
South senior Jacob Keyslay, a senior at NHSS, stopped using cursive before he entered high school.
"After middle school, it didn’t really seem to be required," he said.
Keyslay, for one, is glad it’s gone. "There are more productive things we could be doing, and it takes a longer time to write."
Senior Paul Wainaina disagrees. He said he loves writing cursive, in part because so few people use it.
Cursive, already staggering in wake of typewriters, word processors, and now the ubiquity of computers, took another hit in 2010 when the Common Core standards were adopted. The standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, do not include any requirements for the instruction of handwriting. Last year, the New Hampshire Senate passed a law that encouraged the teaching of cursive and multiplication tables; an earlier version of the bill required such instruction.
Sharon Flesher, South librarian, said she first started learning cursive in second grade in the year 1967. "It was expected that we knew how to write cursive through school."
Flesher said turning to the keyboard is slowly killing the artistic way of writing. "Nobody just takes down notes with pencils anymore," she said. "Instead (they’re) using their phones and computers."
In Colonial days, only men received regular cursive instruction. Today, most adults know it because they learned it in school. In Nashua, cursive-writing instruction begins and ends at third grade.
Supporters of the writing form say there are good reasons for learning cursive.
"In addition to being able to read our Founding Fathers’ documents, it activates the left side of the brain," Nancy Stiles, a Republican state senator and sponsor of the 2015 cursive bill, told The Boston Globe. "Youth are into technology and they use it for everything, but in my mind they still need to learn how to connect the letters."
Meanwhile, a 2014 paper published by Psychological Science showed college students who took longhand notes retained more information than students who took notes via laptop.
Evan Kennedy is a senior at Nashua High School South.