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From Left Field: Cursing cursive, the poor-man’s unneeded calligraphy
Adam Krebs, Reporter - photo by Adam Krebs

The Wisconsin legislature is taking up a bill that would bring cursive back to elementary classrooms. OK, I guess?

One of the bill’s authors, former teacher Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond Du Lac) said, “Surprisingly to many, cursive writing can lend a hand in the process of improving reading. This bill isn’t just about nostalgia of being able to read grandma’s letters and primary source historical documents.”

The part of the quote I took to heart was “isn’t just about nostalgia,” which, believe it or not, is what it’s entirely about.

People can read cursive without knowing how to write it, let alone write it fluidly or legibly by fifth grade. Cursive is basically a poor man’s calligraphy. Maybe it should be treated as such.

Facebook commentary cries included: 1) How will they be able to read historical documents? 2) Kids today can’t even sign their names, and 3) how will they read their professor’s hand writing in college?

To the first comment: Believe it or not, you don’t need to know how to write cursive in order to read it. Second one: I sign my name all the time — in print form, very quickly, without lifting the pen. A signature is all but meaningless in today’s digital world, and it will only be more so in the future. Third comment: Kids of today won’t be reading professor’s handwriting on the chalk board. Typing notes on a computer or tablet is much faster than writing, not to mention power points and “talk to text” apps. 

Think of it this way: Cursive is to kids today what teaching Latin in school was 75 years ago — a dying necessity. In the first half of the last century, about a quarter of schools still taught Latin, being clung to because colleges required it for medicine and law degrees, which is no longer the case. In the future, scholars will learn cursive, and then translate it for the rest. (Actually, it’s more likely computer software and phone apps will do it in the very near future.)

We already aren’t teaching our kids about interest rates, how to file taxes or how to deal with Comcast’s horrid customer service department — why waste the time on keeping a pen to paper?

I learned cursive about 25 years ago in school, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used it. In fact, my social security card has 8-year-old me’s cursive signature on the dotted line; my mom made me sign it. That signature looks absolutely nothing like the one I use today to sign court documents like a marriage license, or for buying my house or cars, or any plethora of other documents. My oldest child asked me to help her with cursive when she had it in school it a few years ago, and I just laughed — I think I could still write about 10-15 letters total, which would include upper- and lower-case combined. 

Normal everyday life doesn’t use cursive; the more prominent requirement is legible handwriting, which could be either cursive or print. 

I take notes for a living, and I print a heckuva lot quicker than I’ve ever seen someone write in cursive. I also don’t use much more than basic math — all that algebra and pre-calculus ended up meaningless. I’m not salty that I had to take it; I’m salty because I was told it was going to be a daily staple in my life.

I’m not saying that there aren’t positives to teaching cursive — especially as an “intro to” segment that lasts three class periods. But to require proficiency? And by fifth grade? It may be a bipartisan bill, but it’s bipartisan garbage.

We have more roads to fix in this state, more dollars to give back to school districts for technology that can help bring our classrooms up to speed and more teachers that should be brought in to alleviate overpopulated classrooms. There are police departments — I can think of one here in Monroe — that need their budgets raised, allowing for tech upgrades, pay increases for officers and unfilled positions. You look around the state and see that the Dept. of Natural Resources was gutted, as well as other regulatory checkpoints, and yet we want to spend millions — the Department of Public Instruction estimates between $1.7 to 6 million for supplies and teacher training — on teaching cursive?

OK, boomer.

— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and can hardly wait the final 95 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. He can be reached at