Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A to Z: H is for Handwriting

"Handwriting": cursive as differentiated from printing.

What does a recently discovered written language of the Picts (an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843) and modern day cursive have in common?

If those in position of choosing future education standards have their way, both will be extinct. Now that the Common Core educational standards are being implemented, one of the effects is being felt. Cursive is being dropped from the curricula of many schools, in favor of teaching keyboard proficiency.

In an article that caught my eye, a young court witness was asked to read a letter out loud, and her response was, "I don't read cursive."    From that article Is Cursive Writing Dead? , "Very small proportions of adults use cursive for their day-to-day writing," Polikoff said. "Much of our communication is done on a keyboard, and the rest is done with print."

I don't know which side of this you are on--whether you feel  it's important to maintain the cursive teaching standard, or if you feel that  it's teaching time that could be better spent.  But the idea of removing cursive from classrooms did bring some thoughts to my mind.

The first thought is our signatures. I like mine. ~smiling~ And I think a signature is a matter of pride and often, a matter of promise, but in all respects, I guess it's not actually a guarantee of identity, huh?  So, for legal documents, deeds, marriage licenses, a driver's license...  Will we thumbprint? Retina scans for everyone?

You know, I have a scifi-ish ms. that actually utilizes that.  The future is now.

I like signing birthday cards in cursive. My big, sweeping letter T topped off by a fancy loop, and the way I church up the Y in my last name. I'll miss them...

Will our historical documents become unreadable relics to the masses? The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, for a few examples. And future generations will be relegated to the word of historians and scholars educated in the ancient written language of Cursive.  Hmm... sounds sort of unbelievable.

But, think back to that ancient language of the Picts.  (For article on the recent discovery of it, click HERE)  Someone, a long time ago, could read it and write it.  But for some reason--albeit likely a much different reason than cursive is headed the way of the dodo, it became unused.

What I do find fascinating is that we are experiencing an inevitable part of existence. Language evolves. Spoken and written, it changes over time. What is so different about this bit of evolution (in my lifetime) that makes it so very fascinating is that it's such a dramatic change. It's not being precipitated by a tribe breaking up and drifting in different directions for better hunting grounds, and it's not because an entire culture is being decimated by disease or war.

We are bearing witness to such a staggering change.

And it is staggering. We are on the precipice of a great change that will affect millions. We will create the first generation of people who will NOT understand what it is still mostly a commonplace means of communication, a means of correspondence.  Staggering...

I use cursive everyday. I do considerable writing at work, but admit that it's mostly in the form of notes in my lab notebook. Reports generated by that lab notebook data invariably take the form of a Word doc, or an Excel form. But, maybe my longhand kindred spirits and I are a bit like dinosaurs. Yet, I do like much of modern technology.

In summary, nostalgia aside, that leaves me sitting on the fence. My jury is still deliberating this one.

Where are you on this? Do you use cursive? Is it obsolete? Continue teaching it, or stop? 


  1. Love this post!

    I have to admit that even though I learned cursive in school and have had to read it for years, I'm struggling to read it now. Like you mentioned, everything is becoming computerized. Other than my signature (which is often just my initials) I never use it myself as charting in hospital notes requires legible printing (or typing on computer charts).

    I'm a bit unsure though about taking cursive writing out of schools because when I hear that people can't do it I'm shocked, but I do agree that with limited time in school teaching more practical skills will be important, like typing. That being said, people shouldn't forget the value of writing by hand: on a personal level, myself and other writers have mentioned that we feel more inspired when use pen and paper, and there's new research emerging that writing by hand helps commit to memory better than typing does.

    The Capillary

    1. That is interesting-- the connection between memory and handwriting! And it makes sense, but I'd never before given that a thought.

      Thanks for visiting and for the very thoughtful comment. :-)

  2. Like you, I am pretty much on the fence on this one. Signature - absolutely, must be more than just writing you name. It is an expression of your individuality. Even if there is another Keith Channing (there are at least two more in UK alone), his signature will not be anything like mine.
    I believe it to be an error to remove cursive writing from school curricula. True, everything is computerised, and most communication undertaken by young (and not-so-young) people uses some form of electronic medium. However, if writing in script should completely disappear, graphology and, in all probability, calligraphy will go with it. Additionally, if a massive CME should happen, disabling electronics for a period, a lot more will need to be hand-crafted. Well-practised script flows much more quickly than letter-by-letter pint.
    Having said that, after more than a quarter of a century working with computers, I need to re-learn cursive!

    Keith Channing

  3. It looks as though my typing skills leave a little to be desired, too.
    Line 2 - *your* name
    Line 13 - letter-by-letter *print*

    1. Ha! Your second comment made me chuckle, Keith. Good points you raise. My daughter and I just talked about cursive, and she made a good point, too, and it speaks to part of your comment. Most adults don't write in 100% proper cursive. We use hybrids. :-) Thanks for visiting!

  4. I don't use cursive that often. I usually print if I'm going to write something, but cursive does happen at least once a day at some point. It amazes me that we're SEEING ourselves become a part of history. To think someone might call on me as being an expert because I can read a hand-written note blows my mind. That seems silly, but the reality is, that it could be possible.

  5. I write notes all the time and am quite shocked to be honest, that cursive writing is no longer taught in schools and some people can't even read it! Guess I'm living in the past? But wait a minute, aren't legal signatures always going to be required? How will that happen if people don't know how to write? X marks the spot? Print your name? Frankly, it disturbs me a bit.

  6. I love this post, and I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I don't use cursive a lot, but I do use it. I also love the way my signature looks. Part of me wants to hold on to it. We can surely focus on both the handwritten and typed, right? Then again, it's the way of things. Language evolves. You're definitely right about that. I'm on the fence as well.

    -L.G. Keltner, minion in Captain Alex's Ninja Army

  7. Excellent post! the young people today are missing so much - what do they use for signature? I heard a discussion of this topic on the radio. The woman being interviewed said her family had a whole history in letters, but the grand children couldn't read it. They could not read their own family's history. It's not like the letters are that different from printing either. I actually rec'd a card in the mail from a friend - handwritten. Very sad situation what isn't being taught in school

  8. I was taught cursive during my second grade year, 1987-88, and have been using it ever since. Sometimes I write in a sort of mix of cursive with print, but I very rarely print only. I always thought of cursive as adult, mature, professional writing, and printing as childish, for people who hadn't been taught cursive yet. It's kind of sad how so many schools don't teach it anymore, and how people who are my age or not much younger only print. It's also quicker to write cursive than it is to print.

    I had to finally learn Russian cursive my junior year of university, when I finally had the chance to start formally learning Russian after years of teaching myself on and off. I'd taught myself their alphabet at thirteen, but hadn't cared to learn the cursive versions. When my Russian professor said we had to use cursive for all our work, since everyone uses cursive only in Russian, you'd better believe I made myself learn the Russian script, and still generally use it to this day. I didn't whine and make excuses about how it was too hard to know two versions of an alphabet.

  9. I still write in cursive and it pisses me off that children in my very own school district aren't being taught. Imagine if I wrote them a letter they might struggle to understand it! Just rediculous!