Shocker: Johnny can’t sign checks or legal documents…

Many schools just don’t teach cursive handwriting any more.


Yesterday, we posted about how Johnny can’t write.  That was in a macro sense: he can’t construct a compelling, logical argument since that skill is decreasingly taught and practiced in schools these days.

Today, let’s dive down to the literal level.


I was taken aback when a friend casually mentioned to me that his grandson – a freshman in college – “couldn’t even sign his name”.

I initially thought that the kid might have a learning disability, a physical handicap or was – for some weird reason – banned from signing legal documents.

Nope, the reason was more straightforward and pervasive than that…


My friend’s explanation: they don’t teach cursive writing – the foundation skill of signatures – in Baltimore area schools anymore.

“Impossible.  Can’t be true.”

“Look it up”

So I did … and was surprised to learn that the Common Core eliminated cursive writing from the elementary curriculum.

The rationale: Teaching cursive is time-consuming, marginally effective (think: sloppy, unreadable handwriting) and technologically obsolete.

So, cursive has been replaced by keyboarding … an indisputably valuable skill in today’s computer age.

OK, I understand that, but ….

How can students take notes in class or take written exams?

The answer: “print writing” … which tests indicate is at least as fast as cursive – oftern faster for some students – with a higher degree of legibility.

But, as anybody who watches Forensic Files knows, cursive signatures have a high degree of uniqueness that can be evaluated for “source validity”, i.e   authenticate a legit signature or spot a forgery).

So, how can students sign legal documents like checks, loan applications, etc.?

The answer to that one is less clear: rely on the uniqueness of a print-written signature or make a mark that can be certified by a witness — with an official stamp or their own cursive signature.

The rubs in that approach should be obvious to all.

So, some school districts are straying from the Common Core and slipping cursive back into their curriculums.

Bottom line: Don’t be shocked if you ask a young person to sign a document and they respond “say, what?”


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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One Response to “Shocker: Johnny can’t sign checks or legal documents…”

  1. John Milnes Baker Says:

    I am an architect and can letter faster and more legibly than most people. (I say “letter” not “print.” I was informed early on in my masters program in architecture school that “machines print – people letter.”) From my earliest years in primary school I learned cursive writing. Whatever method it was, it became second nature. 6th, 7th and 8th grades in a parochial school was all the reinforcement I needed for neat, legible and FAST script. I have demonstrated numerous times that I can write “The quick brown fox …. etc.” literally twice as fast as I can letter the sentence. Why can’t people grasp this fundamental principle?
    How sad that so many young people today can’t even read historical documents in the original texts. My local Staples store no longer requires a signature on a credit card receipt. Why? I was told that “Most people can’t even sign their own names any more. So we no longer require a signature.” Need convincing? The Catholic students at the local boarding school must sign an attendance sheet at the church in Kent. There is not a single student “signing” in who has what has been conventionally been recognized as a signature. And these student attend what is generally considered an elite school! How sad ….. !

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