Learning to form the irrational, non-intuitive shapes of the capital G and Q in cursive is something of a second-grade rite of passage. Or at least it used to be. As handwriting in general becomes increasingly passe, and as elementary school curricula become increasingly test-oriented, teaching cursive is slowly getting pushed out of the curriculum.
And who cares, right? Unless you’re getting paid to address wedding invitations, you probably haven’t used your cursive skills recently. People who freak out about kids not learning cursive are reactionary nostalgists — and I usually love nostalgia! But even I understand that times have changed, and typing classes seem like a much better use of kids’ school hours.
Recently, the neurologists started to weigh in (always a bad sign). Turns out that handwriting is more cognitively demanding than typing. When you’re typing without looking at the keys, you create “a distinct spatiotemporal decoupling between the visual attention and the haptic input.” That is, your typing hands are at a remove from the letters that appear on the screen. When they practice physically forming letters by hand, kids are also learning to recognize those letters when they read. Which is a fine case for making sure that kids still know how to operate the ancient technology of pen-and-paper writing. But that’s an argument for why we still need print; what, exactly, is the function of script?