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Want to know a good one? Some geniuses in education…

…are suggesting that cursive writing be dropped from the curriculum.

a) it’s the foundation of the ability to sketch and manipulate graphics and styli, a damned interesting choice in the computer age.
b) it enables us to sign our names distinctively.
c) printing is a timeconsuming bitch
e) and if you don’t learn these skills as a gradeschooler, you will not learn them as well as an adult. It’s about the sequence of development of motor skills.

44 comments to Want to know a good one? Some geniuses in education…

  • CJ

    WHen I was a freshman in art class, we were assigned to develop a unique and pretty cursive for ourselves, and I did: Uncial and the later foreign language study just added onto it. So you can alter your handwriting style. If you ARE an inveterate printer, I would recommend the Uncial forms, which can be blurred into a fast-moving quasi-printing, quasi-handwriting that makes you look Tolkienian while remaining legible: the trick is to imagine a common top-line for the letters and a bottom-line, and to keep everything sandwiched between those two points, with inventive flourishes only when you feel like it. If you were once frustrated while learning cursive, this is a halfway form that, in its close confinement, lets your pen flow freely on to the next letter without a lot of up and down movement. And it comes out pretty, too.

  • NosenDove

    Horror story number four hundred and three – as a 33 year revenue agent for the IRS, I have seen just about every kind of signature you can imagine. When I remarked that the President of a Corporation’s signature looked like a straight line with a little squiggle on the end ad was easily forged, the CPA told me that is exactly what had happened just two or three years prior.

    I learned to write – and for a long time we wrote our reports in long hand. Some authors wrote their books entirely by hand – Zane Grey for instance.

  • CJ

    Since I started writing at age 10, I always wrote in longhand, with illos. At about 16-17 I taught myself to type—first on an old Underwood, the sort you only see in detective movies now; and then on a Corona, which I kept destroying. The Underwood could hold up against me, though sometimes its keys would jam; but one Corona and another came apart, about 4 in succession, which on my meager budget was sad. I once sent the m key slug 12 feet—I know it was 12 feet, because it hit the bedroom wall and fell. Then I took out a loan from my folks and got an IBM typeball machine, which waited a while to come apart—the typeballs would come apart, and then I’d have to fish bits out of the works—and that got expensive. By that time I was a selling writer—I sold the very first thing I typed on that IBM: Gate of Ivrel. Having all your letters on the same line does help, really. I then sold Brothers of Earth and Hunter of Worlds, pretty well all at once.
    There was nobody readier than I was to have a computer printer. My first was an Atari 48 k machine with 5 1/4 floppies and so many buffers wired into the thing it took an IBM computer on Dos 3 to replace it. (I taught myself guitar while that printer was printing, because I had to stay awake to feed it.) And there were several attempts at a luggable, etc, until I really bit the bullet, mortgaged the car, and bought an IBM with a laser printer kludged in on a parallel port, as I recall. Beyond that—I had to give up Dos for Windows (I’m still not convinced.)
    But the bit about no carbon paper was really convincing, when it came to going over to computer. My first word processor took up 14k of memory. That’s k, not meg. And it took several disks to store a chapter. It was still a Good Thing.

    So I’m for both computer literacy and the ability to write by hand. Never give up an option if you can avoid it, because you never know when the sun is going hand us a hiccup and we’ll all be handwriting everything.

    • I started to write the moment I had a computer. As in, less than a fortnight after getting it – because the words would just flow, and *they remained legible*.

      I stopped writing longhand six weeks ago – when I bought my iPhone – and there is nothing in the world that would convince me to go back to it. (I’ve done 1500 words on the iPhone in one day, and the limitation was lack of story, not the instrument.) It suits my writing style tremendously – I hadn’t realised how many bad habits writing longhand brought out in me until I stopped doing it.

      However, I think students ought to learn because writing cursive allows you to decipher it better (if you’re coming up against unreadable texts, try redrawing them. Usually, that gives you clues.) On the other hand, British kids have done without joined-up-writing for a long time (don’t know what’s currently taught) and they seem to turn out ok, too.

  • Ms. Cherryh sez:
    Since I started writing at age 10, I always wrote in longhand, with illos. At about 16-17 I taught myself to type—first on an old Underwood, the sort you only see in detective movies now; and then on a Corona, which I kept destroying.

    My mother demanded that I learn typing as a freshman in High school. I was the only boy in the class. I hated it at the time but now I’m very glad she did.
    And thanks for fixing the typos.
    Phil Brown

  • brennan

    When I was young and (more) impressionable, I read an article about the simplification of the signiatures of important personages as time passed and their rank increased. IIRC the prime example was JFK who had probably lost 75 or 80% of the fine detail in his signiature. Since I found signing my name extremely tedious, I figured “why wait until you’re famous” to craft a signaiture that often takes me less time to scribe than my three initials. It is such a flowing freehand graphic that occasionaly I’ve gotten little love notes from the bank or the vote by mail folks about inconsistent signiatures. On balance though, I’ve saved hours and avoided a great deal of tedium, especially during the ten or so escrow signings I’ve had to endure.

  • CJ

    Gender bias was so strong in the 50’s that when a clerical error landed a typing course on my transcript (belonging to another student with a similar name) the clerks had a fit about changing it, because it was work, and while they’d credit the student who actually took it, they didn’t want to go to the work of deleting it on mine—no telling how many forms it’d take them.

    I absolutely pitched a fit until they removed it: being female AND having a typing course to your name in the 50’s was a good way to be guaranteed you wouldn’t be considered for any job that didn’t involve typing. By NOT having it on there, it meant they’d have to look at my other qualifications.

  • Silverglass

    I love to write by hand! There’s something very real and visceral about it…I get more in touch with emotions (both mine and my characters). I had a long dry spell in writing until three years ago; found one of my old, incomplete stories, was newly inspired, and wrote throughout one night, finally coming up for air about 6 AM, and damn it felt good! I write both in longhand and on the computer now. I can still find new inspiration by picking up a pen.

  • Lynn

    I teach Adults in Africa. These adults learned to read and write their own language through a literacy program. They never learned cursive. In a place where computers are not feasible for the people, I think cursive writing would really help them be better note takers for their classes. They print and I have to give them time (sometimes 40 minutes or so) to write what I have written on the board in five minutes. That takes huge chunks of time when I could be teaching other things, but I have to wait on them to write.

    We take our technology for granted, but it is not available to all people equally. So, these American kids who have never learned to write in cursive would be behind college classmates here in Africa if they were exchange students. There are computers in the cities, but in rural areas they are not as available. Even in the cities and at universities the students have to take timed essay type tests and have to write their answers.

  • Tin

    If you don’t use it you forget. I spent the better part of 25 years doing architectural drawings on a drawing board before shifting over to CAD. Every thing on drawing is printed. With practice you get so you can print as fast or even faster than wrighting longhand. It’s been so long since I have used a cursive script for anything but my signature, I doubt that I could remember all the letter shapes any more. My mother and her sisters all learned Palmer method. Their handwrighting was remarkably similar. It was nor always obvious who had written a note by their script alone.

  • AnneB

    I don’t know about cursive, but the Kindergarten teacher at the school where I teach put a copy of this article from the Wall Street Journal in everyone’s box the other day: . The comments are also interesting.

    An occupational therapist who worked with a student of mine years ago said that handwriting begins at the shoulder.

  • Ruadhan

    re: AnneB: I was reading an article a while back (I forget where or title, but it was probably online) about foot and leg problems–some bright egg did some engineering analysis and found that a lot of those problems started in the hip, because that’s where the leg starts moving first. Makes sense, then, that there’d be analogous things happening with the arm.

    What starts well…

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