, , ,

Over at the blog Seconds, amcgrann recently asked Is Cursive Obsolete?

The real reason to teach cursive isn’t beauty or charm. It’s continuity. amcgrann touched on this with a nice graphic at the very end of the post, but I want to pontificate a bit more about it.

Any time we reform our writing system, we render all that has been produced illegible to subsequent generations. Though, as amcgrann points out, we don’t write quite like the cursive in the Declaration of Independence, we can still read it. But 15th-century manuscripts usually require training to be read.

And although reading 15th-century manuscripts can be tough, when we transcribe them into a typewritten format, they become quite legible. The same cannot be said of Old English, but the difference between late Old English and early Middle English is nothing but a spelling reform.

Because of reforms in penmanship, most people cannot read Chaucer as he was meant to be read. Because of reforms in spelling, most people cannot read Old English at all. Reforms of this sort break our continuity with the past as we jettison ourselves to save the good ship Progress amid the hurricane of modernity.

Abandoning cursive will only impair our ability to participate in the culture that has been developing for the past several centuries.