Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is Cursive Writing a Dying Art?

It’s happening again: a topic catches my eye and suddenly I see it everywhere.  It’s as though it bursts on the scene, has its day in the spotlight and then disappears. This time around, it’s cursive writing or the lack thereof.  First, I saw this July B.C. comic:

Then, a friend mentioned how happy she was that her grandchild was learning cursive.  I’d heard that many schools had stopped teaching it, instead focusing on computer and keyboarding skills.  Another friend chimed in that her 21 year old daughter had learned it in grammar school too but had never been required to turn in a paper in cursive.  In fact, in both high school and college, assignments were turned in electronically. This mom noted that the messages written in her daughter’s high school yearbook had all been printed,  another sign that cursive is not the choice du jour.
That conversation brought to mind an earlier article I’d read about the death of handwriting. It told the story of a parent complaining that her son, a high school junior, could not read the homework assignments written on the blackboard by the teacher because, you guessed it, they were written in cursive. Five Reasons Kids Should Still Learn Cursive Writing suggests some good reasons why we shouldn’t let handwriting die, but here’s the one I like most:
“It’s good for our minds! Research suggests that printing letters and writing in cursive activate different parts of the brain. Learning cursive is good for children’s fine motor skills, and writing in longhand generally helps students retain more information and generate more ideas. Studies have also shown that kids who learn cursive rather than simply manuscript writing score better on reading and spelling tests, perhaps because the linked-up cursive forces writers to think of words as wholes instead of parts.”

This rationale prompted me to recall rewriting and organizing my class notes in college to prepare for exams, and now I know it was the act of writing that helped to cement the facts in my brain. 
Don’t Forget How to Write! was the next article I read, and I saw myself in the opening paragraph: “Trying to write a note by hand after years of typing on a physical keyboard or Smartphone screen can be discouraging. Often, the spastic result only vaguely resembles penmanship.” That’s me to a Tee.
I still send handwritten notes from time to time, despite the fact that my handwriting has deteriorated over the years. It was never very good, and I attribute that to my being moved into the third grade midyear of the second grade and missing the introduction to cursive writing. My mother worked with me nightly to practice my writing so I could catch up.  Though we both gave it our best shot, I never received more than lackluster grades in penmanship.

I wanted to be encouraged by the author’s premise that, “…getting your skills back up to a level that would make your grammar-school teachers proud isn’t difficult—it just takes the right tools and, of course, practice.”   As bad as my handwriting is, though, I find it hard to believe that practicing at this late date will change it. 

The most recent article I encountered was The Gift of a Heartfelt Letter, wherein the author poses the question, “Do you remember how you felt the last time you received a beautifully written letter from a loved one, a dear friend, or even a person with whom you had a falling out?” Well yes, I do remember. It brought a smile to my face, and that vivid memory may be just the nudge I need to start practicing.