I was astounded to learn a few years ago that handwriting was no longer being taught in most schools. The ability to write one’s name used to be the traditional test of literacy – those who couldn’t signed with an “X.”
Sadly, many young people, if not using an X, can only print their names today. Once kids started keyboarding on their computers and texting on their smart phones, the educational establishment – always on the lookout for whatever’s new – saw no reason to continue to teach cursive.
The Common Core standards, which many states unfortunately embraced, have no cursive requirement, another blow to handwriting instruction.
But, as the Associated Press recently reported, several states have been rethinking that decision, with 14 — including Missouri — now requiring cursive instruction. But that still leaves 36 states that don’t.
I think a good case for cursive in schools can be made. Here are a just few points in its favor:
1. If you’re taking notes in a classroom, or anywhere else, cursive is the fastest way to do it.
2. If you can’t write cursive, you can’t read it either. Those letters in the attic that your great-grandfather wrote home from World War II will go unread unless someone translates them for you. Thinking about making a trip to Washington and visiting the National Archives? If you don’t know cursive, you won’t be able to read even the preambles of the founding documents of your country.
3. Research has shown that students who write cursive out-perform students who can’t in cognitive development governing thinking, language and memory.
Regarding that last point, in my writing I usually do a first draft in longhand. It appears there’s something about the brain-to-hand connection, and it seems to work only with cursive, that closes the circuit, so to speak, and facilitates the writing process.
To be able to only print your name – as well as all other words — would have placed you in the first or second grade back in my day. Do we really want to see our children and grandchildren go through life with that handicap?
A beautiful handwriting is something to behold. My teachers in elementary school tried to instill that talent in me in penmanship class. But it didn’t take, as my handwriting can be all over the place, depending on my mood, the writing surface, the pen I’m using, etc.
My father’s handwriting was another matter. He was a physician, and dashed off prescriptions in a bold, vertical hand complete with fancy flourishes. I wish I’d saved some of his rare letters, for they were cursive works of art.
But signatures don’t have to be pretty to be valuable – William Shakespeare’s illegible scrawls being a case in point. Only six are known to exist, all on legal documents. If a seventh were discovered, the finder would be around $5 million richer.
I hope the cursive comeback continues. Like our fingerprints, our handwriting is unique to us – a part of who we are. In our Twitter-crazy world, it still has a place.