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Third, says Zezima, kids who can’t read cursive cannot comprehend historical documents, such as the U.S. Constitution — much like half of our politicians.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