Posted in random thoughts, writing

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.