I normally pay my bills online, but last year I had to write a paper check the old way. I almost couldn’t do it because I hadn’t actually written anything for years. Strange thing to hear from a blog writer, but true. Computer word-processing has opened the world of writing to me. My handwriting was always so poor, I could often not read it myself. My spelling was even worse. Going back after each word to dot an i or cross a t was so slow I often lost my train of thought before I finished the sentence. Being left-handed smeared what I had just written and felt as awkward as it looked. Just watch President Obama’s struggles. Hooray for computers!
(Many right-handed writers are puzzled why left-handers write in the upside-down “hooked” style. Why not simply tilt the paper in the other direction? It is not that simple. Very few left-handers do that, and I read once that doing so is a sign of a deeper learning disability.)
For me, cursive has been dead for years. Now I read that North Carolina, like many other states, is dropping cursive from the school curriculum. “We’re trying to be realistic about skills that kids are going to need,” says one school board member. “You can’t do everything. Something’s got to go.” As one kid put it, “OMG, 4get cursive, it’s dead!”
Most adults don’t write in real cursive anyway, according to handwriting experts. They use a hybrid mix of print and cursive letters. And have you seen the signature of our new Secretary of the Treasury? It is just nine loops that doesn’t even pretend to be legible. This is what you will soon see on every dollar bill. (Actually, I like his idea and am thinking of working out something original of my own.)
Back on 8/11/2005 I posted a blog on Miss Heidiball’s eighth-grade penmanship class where we dipped a straight pen into our desk inkwells after every few words. She thought fountain pens were for the lazy and ballpoints were barbaric. But we learned cursive long before that. Every grade school classroom in our country had the cursive alphabet displayed on a long poster above the blackboard.
But if I don’t use cursive, at least I can read it, and many children today cannot. Remember that the next time you write a note to your grandchildren at the bottom of a birthday card. They cannot even read the Declaration of Independence or great-grandma’s old recopies. A North Carolina teacher found her students could not read the comments she wrote on their papers. If cursive is ever taught anywhere, it is likely to be in a history class.
Some fear a deeper loss. Cursive, they say, connects letters into words in a way that repetitive typing strokes do not. This somehow helps understanding, but there is no supporting data for this assertion.
Serious cursive writing today is only a quirky hobby by the few. The current seventh-grade national handwriting champion is Trinh Tran who moved here two years ago from Vietnam. As one professional calligrapher said, “I would lose sleep if I thought [cursive] was dying as an art form, but as a rudimentary part of a child’s education? I’m not going to cry about that.”