Monday, June 16, 2008

Cursive writing

Yesterday over Father's Day dinner we had an interesting conversation. Here is the progression:

1. My brother starts talking about the old World Book Encyclopedias, then goes on to tell about the off-brand set of encyclopedias we had at home that he could copy for reports because no one else had access to them. (A sure bet that my mom got them at the Sears Employee Store.)

2. I make a statement about how the internet has revolutionized research (no great observation, I know) and how I used to have to go to the library for a magazine article, look it up in tomes as big as an entire set of encyclopedias, then go to the microfilm, find it, copy it.

3. I move to typing and how we used to have to re-type a whole paper if we made a mistake (remember the round erasers with the brush on the other end?) and my husband says that his teachers would mark a big "F" on a paper if there was one spelling mistake. I mention the first time I worked for a company that had a typewriter with a memory - the writing moved across a one-inch screen above the keys so you could proof and then type to the page.

4. My daughter says that she was looking at an old schedule of classes that had "typing" as one of the courses and she laughed saying that nobody takes typing anymore. She and her friends learned to use a keyboard by using it, not taking a class where you typed "asdfghjkl;" or "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" over and over.

5. Then she shocks us all by saying that nobody learns cursive writing anymore. That she decided on her own to write in cursive so she would know how. WHAT?????

Coincidentally, on the way home, I read an article in the Rhino Times, an independently published newspaper in my home town, on this same subject. A mother had taken her son to a class where he had to sign his name on a release and he couldn't sign in cursive. The article went on to say that some children cannot even READ cursive writing.

Talk about a lost art. I had no idea that children no longer tore holes in their red and blue lined paper writing words that would eventually move gracefully across a page. This has been a most unpleasant revelation to me. First we lose the art of writing notes, then the art of writing. Uh uh, civilization. We're moving in some very undesirable directions.


billie said...

Mamie, we homeschool, so it's hardly the "norm" here, but I have a son who could care less about writing or reading cursive, or learning the "keyboard" to type faster. He has developed his own typing style and can type faster than I can. (I still remember the old:

a s d f j k l "sem"


Otoh, I have an 11-year old daughter who bought Mavis Beacon typing software so she can learn the keyboard. She works on improving her typing speed, wpm, etc. just like I did on the old typewriters.

She is determined to learn cursive and practices both writing it AND reading notes I write to her in cursive as well as any other cursive handwriting she can get her eyes on.

I'm not sure where she gets this infatuation with writing and typing the "old" ways, but I'm kind of glad she has it.

mamie said...

Billie, glad to hear both sides of the story from someone in the trenches. I know my children can sign their names in cursive because I get the checks back that I write them for special occasions and they are endorsed! I'm now wondering if the requirement of the cursive signature is going by the wayside too.

billie said...

LOL - that is one way I can perhaps get my son to learn cursive! Write him a check!!

I think one can print a signature now, though, but I'm not sure he knows that yet.

mamie said...

Billie, I don't know about check-endorsement as a form of cursive wwriting practice. It could get very expensive!

G Liz said...

I had this revelation a few weeks ago myself and I am most disturbed by it. I agree...a very sad direction.

KateGladstone said...

Actually, the law *never* required cursive for signatures. (Don't take my work for it; check out the legal answer to the "signatures" question on the handwriting FAQ page at )
Telling children that "signatures require cursive" -- or that signatures ever required cursive -- therefore misrepresents the law of the land.
Apparently, the custom of such misrepresentation began with elementary school teachers who saw the misrepresentation as a useful "motivational trick" for inducing students to change from the printed style (that they had just finished laboriously mastering) to this other, even more laborious, style called "cursive."