The come­back of cur­sive

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Tom Pur­cell Colum­nist Tom Pur­cell is syn­di­cated by Cagle Car­toons.

Af­ter many schools have phased out cur­sive writ­ing lessons, more schools are bring­ing the lessons back.

As it goes, tech­nol­ogy was such just a few short years ago that the emer­gence of elec­tronic doc­u­ments — com­pleted on com­puter key­pads — no longer re­quired a hand­writ­ten sig­na­ture. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to The

Economist, tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions in hand­writ­ing recog­ni­tion are re­vers­ing the trend. As more peo­ple forgo “clunky” desk­top com­put­ers in fa­vor of mo­bile de­vices, hand­writ­ing is now a faster way to in­put data than key­boards. “As a re­sult,” re­ports The

Economist, “a num­ber of school boards ... have in­sti­gated a re­turn to ba­sics — es­pe­cially time spent learn­ing long­hand.” Which is great news. Look, cur­sive isn’t just a way to put words down on pa­per or an elec­tronic pad. It helps young peo­ple de­velop fine mo­tor skills.

Se­condly, kids who write in print, rather than cur­sive, open them­selves to the risk of forgery, ar­gues Katie Zez­ima in The New York Times.

Third, says Zez­ima, kids who can’t read cur­sive can­not com­pre­hend his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, such as the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion — much like half of our politi­cians.

I have nos­tal­gic rea­sons for con­tin­u­ing the art of cur­sive.

Up into my 30s, I sent, and re­ceived, letters to lots of friends all over the coun­try — I still have a box in my at­tic that con­tains every one of them.

The last time I sorted through the box, I stum­bled on a let­ter I had re­ceived in 1985. It was from a fel­low I’d gone to Penn State with, who went on to be­come a news­pa­per edi­tor in Maine. It was writ­ten on a light­blue fi­nal-exam book­let with great wit and hu­mor.

As I read it, I was trans­ported back to the age of 23. I laughed out loud as I read it. As soon as I fin­ished, I be­gan fish­ing around the box for more letters.

I found a stack of pink en­velopes sent to me by two girls, Bon­nie and Tracey, who at­tended the same col­lege as my friend Griff. He had them send me an anony­mous let­ter once dur­ing our fresh­man year. A ro­bust cor­re­spon­dence re­sulted be­tween 1980 and 1984 (and I dated Bon­nie in 1985). As I reread those letters, I laughed so hard that tears tum­bled down my face.

I spent hours that day reread­ing the dozens of letters I’d re­ceived over the years. It was amaz­ing to me how much liv­ing I’d done and for­got­ten about. And I hope the many letters I have sent to many friends bring them sim­i­lar un­ex­pected plea­sure now and again as they root through their own boxes.

One of my most prized pos­ses­sions is a let­ter writ­ten by my fa­ther’s fa­ther in 1924 con­sol­ing a woman whose mother had just died. He wrote the let­ter when he was 21. He died at 34, when my fa­ther was only 3.

I was given his let­ter in 1997 by the son of the woman my grand­fa­ther wrote the let­ter to. I was struck by how sim­i­lar my grand­fa­ther’s style is to my fa­ther’s — how sim­i­lar his tone and style are to mine — and moved by the beauty and art­ful­ness of his sig­na­ture.

The least we can do is to pass on our pow­er­ful cur­sive tra­di­tion to our kids. Maybe they’ll take the time to hand­write a few letters to their friends. And have some­thing to cher­ish the rest of their lives.

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