The aesthetics of writing in cursive are really a personal thing: some people appreciate the feel of a fine pen gliding over the paper, the line variation from an italic nib, and the shading of a nice ink, and some just don't.
On the practical side: cursive writing came about because it is faster and easier to write at length than printing. While that's not always true today (see more below), handwriting in general has several advantages over more modern methods of capturing words:
- It's extremely portable.
- It doesn't require expensive or bulky equipment.
- It doesn't depend on electricity.
- It has a level of flexibility (quickly sketching diagrams, etc.) that a typewriter or the average word processor doesn't. (Of course, you could moot this point by learning TeX and/or LaTeX.)
- It can be done with less elbow room than typing on a laptop or typewriter.
- Unlike a laptop, it doesn't require a secondary device to produce a paper copy.
- It's extremely durable (we have some written texts dating back thousands of years).
- It can be applied to surfaces not easily put through a printer (textbooks, walls, boxes, signs, etc).
- It is, in many cultures, considered more personal than typing, especially for correspondence.
Unfortunately, the sordid modern history of cursive handwriting in America has deprived us of much of its utility. You see, when the movable type printing press came along, printers developed a set of fonts commonly described as "looped cursive" because they have more consistently placed joins, allowing printers to stock fewer pieces (fewer different joins, and fewer different versions of each letter) and thus making their work less expensive.
Edit: Here's a good comparison of looped vs. italic cursive writing.
Sadly, looped cursive has become the standard in most American schools today, and it is not particularly good for being hand written. This, combined with less time dedicated to handwriting skills, and the transition from fountain pens to hard-led pencils for early writing instruction (in the name of cleanliness), has caused most students to write cursive illegibly and laboriously, if at all. Pencils (especially with hard lead like 'HB') cause more friction with the paper and require much more pressure to write, making clear handwriting harder to learn.
I, too, learned looped cursive with a pencil in elementary school. Writing that way was slow and difficult. Additionally, it caused me to constantly battle with pain from RSI (which I have something of a predisposition to). I grew up, started using fountain pens, and learned to write in cursive italic -- the way that cursive was written before the advent of the printing press. The difference is incredible.
Now, my cursive handwriting is extremely fast and legible. It requires almost no effort. I no longer feel any pain from writing, even long, rambling letters or pages of computer code or other notes.
I'd add that in addition to the usefulness of handwriting in general, and the legibility, speed, and ease of a good cursive italic in particular, I would hate to see our culture lose the ability to read the many important documents first rendered in cursive script. Do we really want the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's speeches, and who knows what else to be lost to time the way that Egyptian hieroglyphs were for so long?
: Info taken from the book Write Now by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay.