Monday, June 9, 2014

Is Cursive Cursed?



As a teacher, I used to dread having to write notes home to parents, not because of any issues that note might generate, but because I always wondered if they’d believe a teacher had written it.
I have bad handwriting. And as the years go by, my hands are increasingly unfamiliar with the motor skills needed.
          Yet I’m saddened and a little worried that the teaching of cursive, for one reason or another, is being edged out of our schools. Studies have shown that it can actually play a part in the development of the mind, that students often remember facts better if they’ve written them out longhand, and it’s even been shown to be helpful for kids with dyslexia.
          As one person pointed out, soon we’ll have a generation unable to read the Constitution in its original script. Will people be able to sign their names in years to come? And the writers of whodunits will have to forgo plot twists that involve handwriting analysis.
I rediscovered my mother's recipe for Fredersburg Graham bread the other day when I was in the mood to make bread. Like my mother, I've never owned a bread machine and enjoy working the dough, light brown with molasses, on the counter, adding handfuls of flour as it becomes sticky. The recipe was written in her handwriting on a lined index card, the kind all cooks used in the days before computers. Like most well-loved recipes, it was spotted a bit, in spite of my attempts to keep it clean over the years. My mother is gone, but I would still recognize her clear script anywhere.
          I can also still picture my grandfather's handwriting, although it was more often printing. He was a geologist for the Sun Oil Company - now Sunoco - in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His writing looked as though stamped out by a machine, it was so uniform. This must have had something to do with his documentation of wells, on maps or some such thing, because my Aunt Clarabelle, who married into the family and was also a geologist, had similar writing.
          On the other hand, my Uncle Sam, Clarabelle's husband and my mother's brother, had spidery, challenging writing. So for that matter, did my grandmother, his mother. Not to malign lefties, but I wonder if this had any connection to the fact that they were both left-handed. Anyway, my grandmother's handwriting was so bad that my ability to read it stood me in good stead when I later worked as a hospital secretary, trying to decipher doctors' orders.
          All of this is of course before the age of computers. My own handwriting has not improved over the years, and that, coupled with the fact that I can type much faster than I can write, has meant that most of my communications with the world and my family are electronically produced.
          I just read a short memoir in which the writer, when asked by her daughter for a recipe, deliberately wrote it out long-hand rather than the quicker vehicle of email. In spite of my problematic handwriting, I should probably follow her example. Will my children or grandchildren ever be able one day to look at a recipe or note and recognize it as mine?  




10 comments:

  1. Attending Catholic school meant learning cursive writing which I remember loving the graceful flow of it and practicing at home to get the letters right. Can't imagine where it will go in this day of electronic communication but it was elegant. My niece learned calligraphy which kicks it up a notch and provides gorgeous invitations to various family events.

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  2. Interesting, Mary. I've noticed an uptick in the interest in calligraphy, too.

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  3. My handwriting is so degenerated I now print.

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  4. In Indiana it has been removed from the curriculum. I started practicing in a spiral notebook because mine was going downhill.

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    1. Isn't that a shame, Susie? The removal from Indiana's curriculum, I mean. And you know, I had actually thought about practicing some myself. If nothing else, it's probably a good hand strengthener.

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  5. My cursive writing has almost disappeared. I'm a retired teacher. Horror of horrors, I taught cursive writing at one time. Printing can be analysed so no worries with the whodunits.

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    1. Phew! Murder mysteries can continue! Thanks, Red.

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  6. I'm happy to see that more research is being done recently. I hope the conclusions don't come too late to save cursive if the developmental connections prove to be important to learning.
    LIQP

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  7. Two of my children learned to write here in France. Handwriting is taken VERY seriously here, and nothing but 'perfect' is accepted. When they returned to England to continue their studies their handwriting instantly became illegible. I think they both felt it had been TOO PERFECT.

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