The Beginning of the End of Cursive


And so it begins. Indiana schools are no longer going to be teaching cursive writing. You remember cursive, right? The curly, flowy letters that all connect as you write. With a pen. By hand. On paper. No? Maybe it’s already dead.

 

Why do I care when I scarcely write anything by hand anymore myself? I’m not sure. I guess it’s my inner Luddite stirring. I realize it’s more than a little schizophrenic to be tweeting and blogging my lament about the death of handwriting, but hey, it works for me. As much as I love my gadgets and toys and playing online (and believe me, I do) part of me still sees value in the quieter, slower times of yesteryear. I try not to look back with the rose-colored glasses, I try to keep in mind all the ways modern life is superior to the level of daily life of one-hundred, two-hundred, and a thousand years ago (small things, like hygiene, and medicine, and women’s rights, education, not to mention not having to wear underwear that deforms you and destroys internal organs) but still. Is there anything more treasured or personal than a hand-written note?

But apart from all the romanticism, one effect of not learning cursive is someday no one will be able to read old documents. This will make historical and genealogical research more difficult by an untold factor. Handwritten forms, census records, birth and death certificates, church records and the like will be nearly incomprehensible to all but a few specialist scholars. Handwriting will be the new hieroglyphics before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. However, having said that, some of them already are. Penmanship oddly does not seem to have been a consideration for people whose job it was to fill in these forms in the days of yore. If you’ve done any research into your own family and seen some of these documents, you now what I mean.

I wonder what other unforeseen fallout from this will be. Eventually company logos now written in script or cursive will have to be changed because no one will be able to read them. Someday people will look back on pens and pencils the way we look at quill pens and inkwells, with fond nostalgia. They’ll wonder how we ever got anything done like that. Ink blots and smears from those old ballpoint pens that globbed up if you didn’t use them all the time and the pocket protectors that only the nerdiest used, pencils that always needed sharpening or the mechanical ones with the little leads that always break will be as outdated as sealing wax and leather scrolls are to us. Handwritten communications will be relegated to only the most extraordinary occasions, and the exclusive province of artists and calligraphers. Unsurprisingly, I do a little calligraphy and have a nice collection of inks and dip pens and nibs. I find it relaxing, kind of Zen practicing letter forms. It’s my one and only foray into the art world, and if you’ve seen my little sketches on my blog here, I think you’ll agree it’s for the best.

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12 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End of Cursive

  1. It’s a bit sad that they will stop teaching cursive, but few use it here. Not sure if it’s taught anymore here either.

    I write cursive, but can only use it for my own notes. When I write to others I have to use single letter script, as my cursive looks awful, with n’s and m’s that disappearing into the squigglies.

    No one else can read my notes in cursive, it’s like having my own “code” script. 🙂

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  2. Kind of like short-hand, I don’t think that’s taught anymore either. Who takes dictation? I learned a form of it when I was in high school, but other than for my own convenience never used it. It was kinda handy, though, wish I remembered it now!

    That’d be cool, to have your own private code 🙂 The writer Beatrix Potter apparently invented her own, and after she died it took them some time to decipher journals that she had written.

    I think my own handwriting is legible, if I pay attention to what I’m doing when I write anyway! To me it seems faster than trying to print, like I did on that little sticky note I put up a couple weeks ago. One of my cousins had the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen, and I was always jealous of her.

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    1. Yeah, I print if I’m filling out a form or something but cursive is faster. I’ve heard that the crochet/needlwork kind of stuff is supposed to improve your handwriting b/c it helps manual dexterity, but unfortunately I write w/one hand and crochet w/the other, so my penmanship is still pretty skrtichy.

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  3. This! “Is there anything more treasured or personal than a hand-written note?”

    I’m a half-luddite. I love and appreciate modern conveniences. But there is much to be said about old-fashioned simplicity, too. I am SO thankful to have electricity! Yet at times, it is also nice to keep the lightswitch off, and just sit in candlelight.

    And this brings me to the handwritten notes. Yes, emails are great and convenient. But a handwritten letter is special.

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    1. I’m right on the same page, Gypsy – clearly I was born into the right age, with indoor plumbing, refrigeration and contact lenses, but yesterday we had friends over for an old-school charcoal-grill cookout, and everybody loved just sitting in the back yard and enjoying the art of conversation. I am pleased to say that I had 5 adults over for the entire afternoon, and I hardly saw anybody check their phone/mobile device at all!

      Can’t speak re: most of the crowd’s penmanship, however…

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    2. I spent the day yesterday on the road/at the beach down in Newport so was offline all day, but with my geriatric car there was a real possibility something could go tragically wrong, and so I actually schlepped the laptop down with me just in case I got stranded and needed something to do. I guess it worked like a talisman against motor vehicle failure, all was well except for a dashboard indicator light that kept randomly coming on for the SRS (airbag). I kept hoping the bloody thing wasn’t going to suddenly decide to deploy at 60 mph. Happily, all went well and the laptop got the day off.

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  4. My niece would love this news. I was helping her with her cursive and explaining to her the importance of learning it and writing it neatly. She thinks it is really hard and think it is silly but before I left she was getting better.

    Who ever decision this was is foolish. Cursive is an art! Why take it away. I agree once it comes to an end one day only certain people who have not let go of writing in this art form will still be able to understand it. I wonder if this is what happen to to other languages/writing over time?

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  5. Very possibly. I don’t see the relevance of doing away with it. I think it’s a mistake, but what do I know? In the back of my mind I always wonder how we’d survive if civilization really did fall, and power sources were gone. We hand over so much of our lives to automation and machines (and I know how this is starting to sound) I already know people who can’t cook without a microwave. I don’t know what happens to people like that during a power outage. (I realize you can’t use an electric stove during one, either, but I’ve scrambled eggs on my barbecue grill during an extended outage). I guess I just don’t like feeling dependent on technology to such an extent. If people can’t do their own writing (which will be the next step), what will they do if their devices ever fail?

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