7.03.2011

Curbing Cursive?

Like so much else in education today that seems to be seen as irrelevant or unnecessary, it appears that cursive writing is about to go the way of the dinosaurs...to be rendered inert and extinct. What caused this passing away of penmanship? And is it too late for a revival?

A recent article in the News and Tribune ( Indiana schools ending cursive writing requirement ) references an April 25 memo that "that instead of cursive writing, students will be expected to become proficient in keyboard use." While I can understand emphasizing computer literacy, I fear that abandoning cursive is going to create a new kind of illiterate. Now both of my sons have studied cursive, and while they are far from masters of this form of penmanship, there is a rudimentary form/function to it: simply put, it is legible. However...in their never ending quest for new reading material, they often stumble across an author who, "quelle horreur" has used cursive to illustrate a point! Imagine the frustration that ensues as they are unable to decipher the text, as if they have found a new super secret spy code! So to me they run, holding treasured book out like it is diseased, begging me to translate this mystery language so they can continue on with the narrative.

In addition, my parents both have a very, ahem, artistic flair to their penmanship, and this makes it often difficult for the boys to understand the message contained in the annual birthday cards. How dare my parents write in...cursive!

This is what I ruminated on after I read the article. When I was in college excited about studying English Literature, specifically Shakespeare, I had to start at the begining. I didn't just jump into a course on the Bard...I began with Le Morte D'Arthur, with Chaucer...in original Middle English,"Whan that Aprille with his shoores soote/The drought of March hath perced to the roote/And bathed every vein in swich liquor/Of which vertu engendred is the flour/When Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth..." and after Shakespeare to Clarissa (a novel writen entirely in epistle form...that's letters to you and me) and so on...

I am also a person who could open my own stationary store because of all the thank you cards, etc I keep stored in the cabinet above my "mom's desk." Need a special card for that special someone and a special moment? I probably have one that will do the trick. And I love writing letters...in cursive mind you, because there is something truly personal about mail. I still have love letters written to me from high school and college boyfriends, because they speak about a specific moment in time that an email could never accurately reflect. I know one truth: an emoticon on a text message is not emotion.

So while I understand that we need to move our children into the 21st century (we are about 11 years late on that score), and while I too am plugged in (facebook, twitter, this blog, texting like I was 12), I mourn the loss of the magic of the written word, of books painstakingly labored over by artists who penned perfection for our perusal.
That, as Norbet Platt said, "The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."

Can we say that in 140 characters or less?

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