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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The demise of cursive handwriting

Among the unwitting casualties of our increasingly techno-mad society: good penmanship is becoming an endangered species. So notes Claire Suddath in the latest issue of Time...
I can't remember how to write a capital Z in cursive. The rest of my letters are shaky and stiff, my words slanted in all directions. It's not for lack of trying. In grade school I was one of those insufferable girls who used pink pencils and dotted their i's with little circles. I experimented with different scripts, and for a brief period I even took the time to make two-story a's, with the fancy overhang used in most fonts (including this magazine's). But everything I wrote, I wrote in print. I am a member of Gen Y, the generation that shunned cursive. And now there is a group coming after me, a boom of tech-savvy children who don't remember life before the Internet and who text-message nearly as much as they talk. They have even less need for good penmanship. We are witnessing the death of handwriting.
This takes me back to 1982, when Mrs. Casanega was teaching us in second grade how to write in cursive. By the end of the year, I felt like John Hancock himself. I'll always be grateful to her for giving us this skill (and I hold only myself accountable for that hideous beast of illegible scrawl that has arisen from my hands over the years... sigh).

Anyhoo, 'tis an intriguing commentary from Claire Suddath. Perhaps it's time to reinvest in teaching handwriting? Much like the samurai of old, I'm inclined to believe that it lends itself a certain self-discipline to the pupil and practitioner. A small detail to be sure... but a little refinement more often than not goes a long way in the scheme of things.


Anonymous said...

Chris, is there really any reason to learn cursive (was there ever?)

No book is published in cursive and handwritten letters don't exist anymore.

Our schools have a hard enough time teaching the kids to learn to read/write in one way, much less 2.

We need to take the advice of Prez Obama and realize our limitations (see: http://www.theonion.com/content/video/obama_drastically_scales_back)

Chris Knight said...

"Chris, is there really any reason to learn cursive (was there ever?)"

Yes, there is.

In my opinion, we need to teach children how to write by hand - and that means to write in their own hand with cursive - before we teach them skills like computer keyboarding.

Just like I believe that basic math skills should be taught before ever turning students loose on a calculator.

And I also don't believe that computers belong in a classroom setting any sooner than, say, seventh or eighth grade.

Now, does this mean that I'm a Luddite? Definitely not. I do maintain that there is much to be gained from the old ways, especially a self-discipline and elegance, that should not be neglected for sake of modern convenience.

Handwriting has existed for four thousand years and more. It's not going to go out of style anytime soon.