Update: This topic is covered by CBS News on June 28/13 in a story entitled “Is Cursive Writing Dead?” At the George Zimmerman trial, witness Rachel Jeantel was asked to read a letter in court but was embarrassed to have to confess she didn’t read cursive.
If you are lucky enough to have been taught how to write properly when you were in school, your value to society has just soared overnight because this is fast becoming a lost skill — in America at least. Cursive writing, aka handwriting, script or longhand, has lost out to the keyboard.
An article appearing in the Revere, MA Journal last week states that the Building Department Clerk found something amiss. http://bit.ly/WPCvsl An increasing number of files were in the wrong place because one letter had been confused for another: P’s for B’s, or L’s for I’s. This had been the work of conscientious high school interns who were upset to see they were doing things wrong. They simply had not learned to read people’s handwriting.
The reporter in Revere went around interviewing teachers, school principals and administrators in the community. She found out that cursive writing had been either dropped out of the curriculum, shifted to being an elective subject or was being “smuggled” into other subject areas by teachers who considered it vital.
The results of these pressures to downgrade handwriting are beginning to show up all around us. Those with shorter memories don’t know that pupils in grade I learned how to print, then in grades II and III spent hours working with a pencil on specially lined paper, tracing the small letters up to the half-way mark, and the capital letters all the way up to the top. Each circle had to be carefully rounded and made to touch both the lower and upper limits. The letters were constructed on a slant, leaning optimistically forward, parallel to each other. Everything had to look orderly, not like “bird dirt”. Discipline and having to practice something over and over again so as be able to do it freely were important lessons sinking in at the same time. Handwriting expressed character — not just characters –, extended one’s personality, was a source of pride, a personal possession, an identity, a means of gaining control. It was a very practical skill life for note-taking. By linking letters to each other continuously you could do the job faster than if you only knew how to print.
If you did not acquire this skill you would be rejected because you were
uneducated. It wouldn’t just have been a case of embarrassment, as with the employees in Revere. One of the educators interviewed by the reporter said they were making sure that every student had a signature. How pathetic! We have gone back to the days of signing our names with an X. It is no laughing matter that Timothy Geithner had to learn how to sign his name properly before it was respectable enough to adorn the currency.
As in the Book of Daniel, it’s time for an invisible hand to spell out and warn that you are about to suffer because, through no fault of your own, a basic value is being allowed to disappear:
- Personal papers, letters, diaries and other written keepsakes will be undecipherable by your descendants, even your own children and grandchildren, as if they were written in a foreign language.
- The chances of someone in your family having dyslexia will go up.
- You will never be able to trust that a document is original, its authorship authentic and nothing in it changed by an electronic device. Print is not as reliable and distinctive as script, not as good for reading a writer’s personality. Graphologists might as well retire.
As a person who still has this skill, and because it is important, you can be key in making sure it doesn’t die:
- Teach your children and grandchildren how to write longhand. Make it a game. Post letters to them and enclose a sheet of lined paper for their written reply.
- Offer to volunteer at a local school. Set up a handwriting club.
- Be enterprising. Be a cursive writing tutor or coach.
The handwriting will then come down off the wall and get back into real lives and society. It’s a skill that makes communication faster, freer, more
democratic, more independent, cheaper for the individual, economical and efficient for society. And who wants to be without that?
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