Thursday, December 13, 2012

Disappearing Handwriting

Mamakat's Wondermous Prompt: 1.) A trend you can't stand.

When I was a kid, way back before electricity, way back before the reading Holy Wars, we had to learn to write cursive.  There we sat at our little desks, our heads bent over the paper specially made for learning to write cursive.  This paper had a dotted line in between the solid ones, and it cost a bit more than the other paper we used.  All of us kids had special pencils that were thick and easy to grip, and the classroom was quiet as we practiced writing a cursive A, followed by a cursive B, and so on.  Our teacher circled the room, making sure that we were writing the letters correctly, and helping us when we did not stay on the line or when our cursive Q ended up too lopsided. Once we mastered the upper and lowercase letters, we began to string the letters together to make words.  The idea was that the pencil did not lift from the page until the word was finished.  I often struggled with that idea; I didn't feel that such things should apply to me, and I am sure that my teacher got tired of my attempts to individualize my education.

A funny thing happened as we learned to write in cursive; those of us who practiced diligently found ourselves doing better on spelling tests.  The practice of writing the words down created a muscle memory that helped us remember the correct spelling, as did seeing the word we had written on the paper.  Once we didn't have to think about the correct spelling, we were able to concentrate on creating actual sentences.  One thing led to another, and by the end of third grade, we were writing fools.  Many of us waited eagerly for our writing assignments, happy to be able to show our teacher what we could do.

I loved the physical act of writing.  I would raid my dad's desk, where he kept a cigar box full of pens.  I would then hide in my room, writing my name, other people's names, and any stories that popped into my head.  I am sure that my mother despaired of ever clearing out all the loose pieces of paper from my room, but we did not have recycling back then. I wrote letters to people, including a girl who didn't even speak English.  The act of pressing the pen to the paper, rolling it along the page to release the ink to form letters, then words, was intoxicating to me, even if it was just a homework assignment.  The fluidity of the movements in writing was somehow a dance, a dance that I could actually participate in, and  I loved that.  Still do.

My son will never have that joy.  He will never learn to write cursive.  He will print words out painstakingly instead of smoothly sliding his pencil along the page.  He will never write saucy comments in his peers' yearbook at the end of the school year.  Should Zane ever become famous, he won't be able to sign autographs with a flourish.  Schools don't teach it anymore.

I hate that.

The reasoning for not teaching cursive seems rational.  When I look askance at the teachers I work with, most of them just shrug stoically and change the subject.  The kids won't use cursive except to sign their names, so why bother?  The big writing tests don't count off for handwriting, so why bother?  Kids will be using computers and typing, so why bother?     I could scream. 

People have to be able to communicate, one way or another.  Writing is just as much a part of communication as other aspects.  If a person can't talk, or use sign, then they should be able to write them down so others can read them. Writing is interconnected with reading, too.  The better you read, the better you write, say the researchers.  Learning to spell words correctly, learning to string words together for form sentences, combining sentences to form paragraphs...all of this starts with learning to write in cursive.  To eliminate handwriting cuts out a vital aspect of writing that limits these children.  I hate it. 

I have no idea what to do about this, except whine and complain.  Maybe if I wrote a letter to the editor?In cursive?  Would he even be able to read it?


  1. I completely agree, I remember being taken aside for extra handwriting practice because my writing wasn't legible. They actually cared about it back then. Now I feel we are over-adapoting. There are even some spelling and grammar rules that are changing because of texting. Horrible!

  2. I agree. I don't understand why schools are doing away with cursive.

  3. I agree. Many legal docs need a signature---and that's usually cursive!

  4. Wait. What? My ids are still learning it... and are graded on it. And sadly, their handwriting is better than mine.

  5. I hate this. It also can't be tested for so it is not being taught so they have time to teach to the test.

  6. Thank you! Thank you for expressing this so beautifully. This is EXACTLY how I feel about this. And why. in. the. world. would we want to teach our kids LESS? Not only will they not be able to write in cursive, but they won't be able to read it either. The Constitution will look like it was written in a foreign language. This year, my 8th grader helped digitize an old US Census... which was mostly written in cursive. She never would have had that experience if she had never been taught to write and read in cursive. It just makes me sick that so many schools are doing away with cursive.


I welcome comments, but reserve the right to correct your spelling because I am OCD about it!