In Defense of Cursive Handwriting and Why We Need Cursive
Since the Indiana School System announced it will stop teaching students how to write in cursive, I'd like to say a few things in defense of cursive handwriting. I'm 58 years old, but you will have guessed that by the time you've read a little of this, or at least you will have guessed that I am over 30. I say that because there is a divide between different ages and sometimes the things we value are indicative of who we are and where and when we were born. In other words, individuation, being an individual. Nothing in the world of writing and communication is as individual as our handwriting.
Think of famous signatures such as John Hancock and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, in fact, think of those famous documents that forever changed history, the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. They were originally written in beautiful cursive handwriting. The men who signed them did so with their own style.
How will the children of today grow up to be individuals without a unique signature? Please don't tell me they'll soon be recognized by their fingerprints or the retina of their eyes. While biological markers may be unique to the person, they are not expressive. Each person's signature is expressive of who he or she is. You say your handwriting is terrible, so is mine, it indicates my own unique, sometimes scatterbrained, creative personality.
Let's go one step farther, do you remember your mother's fingerprint? I remember my mother's signature, a flowing kind of mix between cursive and print, the way she connected the letters, the way she crossed her t's. She left behind dozens of journals she wrote over a lifetime of keeping a record of her trials and tribulations, happy times, and triumphs. They are all written in her handwriting and subtle changes in that handwriting were further evidence of how she felt. Not only in the words themselves, but also in the actual shape and angle of the letters.
When she was happy, it shows, when she was passionate and wrote quickly, the words spilling onto the page, you can see it. How will anyone ever express that with a keyboard?
One of the arguments against cursive handwriting is that it is difficult to learn. Math is difficult for a lot of people to learn, shall we just do away with that? We have calculators with keypads on them, so why do we need to learn how to add, subtract, multiply? If a machine can do it, why must we learn how? How about this, what if the machine is broken? What if there is no machine available where you happen to be? What if using those parts of the brain that perform those functions is good for you?
Let's consider the value of handwritten communication. As a young and struggling writer I received a boxful of rejection slips, as they were called. They were actually form letters without emotion. I still remember the day that I opened an envelope that was from the editor of a very successful magazine and to my delight and surprise there was a handwritten letter from the editor. Yes, it was still a rejection, but it was also filled with suggestions and even an introduction to the editor of another magazine whom she thought might be interested in my story. A very important and busy person took the time to write to me about my writing. I knew then that I had arrived, even though I might still have to struggle, it was worth it because someone who mattered saw enough value in my writing to take time to write a letter to me in her own handwriting.
Getting a handwritten letter from a celebrity or in my case, an editor, means so much. Taking the time to write a note or letter in your own unique, expressive handwriting means so much. It is an act of sharing a little something of yourself that is very personal.
Yesterday I sent a letter to someone who'd bought my book, "Lacey Blue and Friends." She asked me to send a signature since she'd bought the book thousands of miles away and couldn't have me sign it for her. I not only sent the signature, but a note as well, proud and humbled that someone would ask for my autograph as some of my readers still do. What will happen to the writers and readers of the future? Will autographs become a thing of the past?
There is something much bigger than the financial and time constraints involved in this decision to stop teaching cursive handwriting. We are turning our backs on a very important part of being human and expressing our individuality and that is a dangerous road to take as computers and mechanization threaten to gobble us up and turn us all into numbers. Maybe this is it, the place where the human spirit finally says, Enough! Yes, computers and all this technology are wonderful, but they are not worth sacrificing the most important thing of all, each individualís independence and freedom. Let's do what's right for the human spirit and keep cursive.
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