Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Handwriting

A controversy has come up in that two groups disagree mightily on the topic of handwriting, particularly cursive. Apparently, schools may do away with teaching cursive, and handwriting, all together. The argument is that too much time is given to an archaic form when there are many more important items that needs to be taught. However, even though people in general use their computers or phones to communicate more often than a pen and paper, there are many reasons why it should still be taught.

When I was a kid my grandparents and probably my parents, too, said "handwriting" was cursive and didn't use the term. It was either that or "printing." I remember my Grandma sitting at the desk where her phone was (back when it was still tied to the receiver) and while she talked she absentmindedly went through a series of "drills," I guess you could call them, where she wrote different markings for an entire line, changing each line. For instance, she'd have straight, slanted lines in the first row; narrow curly-cues in the second row; wide circles in the next; and so on. I'm assuming that this is something that the nuns taught her, back when an emphasis was placed on handwriting. The result, I noticed, is a generation of people who all have the same penmanship!

A while back I remember reading that the only reason that cursive exists is because a person wasted less ink because the writing utensil wasn't lifted from the paper as often. An interesting tidbit of information, but today the reasoning isn't valid.

Recently, I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal where they talk about how the writing of letters actually trains the brain to become a better thinker. It's absolutely fascinating, and it cements the argument that this is something that cannot be dropped off of the curriculum. I read a comment by a person who said something I didn't even consider--how will students of tomorrow know how to read the Declaration of Independence if they don't know how to read and write in cursive? Maybe that's a bit dramatic (and I'm positive I have a copy of it in Times New Roman), but the point is made that although it may not be used as often as it should, it cannot be neglected. If one-cent pieces are still being made, and it sounds like they are only for nostalgia, then certainly young people can still learn cursive!

I'll end on one of my favorite quotations (quite possibly because I have a faulty memory--both in my head and in my computer!):

The faintest ink is more reliable than the strongest memory.

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