Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Print Myself a Letter

Some time ago, when I was participating in a Swap Bot letter writing exchange, I got a complaint from my partner, to whom I had written what I thought was an interesting letter.  She couldn't read it.  The exchange specified that letters had to be written vs. typed and this girl had never learned to use cursive.  I expressed shock that she could not read cursive and she said that never in her life (she was a college graduate) had she needed to use cursive and that everything she did in college she did on the computer, or else she printed.
The thread I read this morning started out with a report of a newspaper article which said that a teacher somewhere was teaching a course in cursive writing as an extra subject because the schools had stopped teaching cursive.

The writer talked about a man she knew whose daughter was in the Navy. When he wrote his daughter a letter, she had to admit that she couldn't read it because she never learned cursive.

Two others said they had learned it in school and felt it totally unnecessary.  One guy said he hadn't used cursive in 20 years.

I started a thread on another discussion group and got some strong reaction.
I was appalled to find out that my two older grandchildren did not learn cursive. One (age 12) said that he can't read the notes I write in his birthday cards, because he doesn't know cursive, so I asked hiscousin if he knows it, and he said no as well. GEEZ!! It's not a foreign language!! I loved being able to write in cursive when I was a little girl. Loved learning it, practicing it, and using it.  My sons went to Catholic school, where good handwriting skills were stressed! I guess maybe handwriting (as we were taught) is a lost art. What a shame.
I sure identified with her, especially about handwriting being stressed in Catholic schools.  They made no allowances for lefties either.  I never got good grades in handwriting because I always smeared my letters, running my arm across them trying to get into the Palmer method position, which was definitely NOT leftie-friendly!

An older woman (i.e., older than I am) took a slightly different view.
My cursive has, with years of typing, deteriorated to simple "curse" -- my daughter tells everyone that when I used to send them post cards during my travels it took every member of the family working together to figure out just 25 words or so. I just received a letter in cursive which is very readable by a woman in her 40s; no real problem but I'd have enjoyed it more if it were typed. I think a handwritten note of condolence or congratulations is a courtesy that all should be capable of and a cursive signature for legal reasons should be required. But in the age of key boards and texting I'm happy with printed messages.
Obviously my druthers are to type...and, truth to tell, I prefer receiving typed messages, though I have had some very inventive prined letters.  I don't really mind much at all, one way or anther, though I think kids should learn cursive if only to read their grandparents notes!  (Those who write them, that is!)

But I remember the letters my great-great grandfather wrote to his son, my great-grandfather.  GGG was a farmer in Iowa and he didn't spell very well.   His spelling was very creative, perhaps spelling the same word three different ways in his letters...but his penmanship was gorgeous.  He could have helped with writing the Constitution.  It seemed like most of the documents that still exist from that era show a definite emphasis on good penmanship.

This woman sounds like what I do with a pen:
Isn't that ridiculous that someone can't read cursive? My handwriting is a bastardization of cursive and printing, and I print very clearly when I want something read easily (i.e., instructions for someone).
I have found that as I have become involved with SwapBot, where I am creating and sending journals to other people, that I'm writing more.  My hand doesn't get as tired as quickly, and my penmanship is's still not beautiful, but I notice that it's not totally illegible all the time any more.

My mother has always had beautiful penmanship and it is only very recently that I start to see a bit of the old age quiver in her signature when she writes a check.  But perhaps that's because with her new situation, with Ed taking over paying most of her bills and having nobody to write to any more, her handwriting muscles are starting to forget how they used to work.  She still has a more legible and more beautiful cursive hand than I ever have.

Whaddya think?  Is cursive dead?  Should it be?  Will there be a generation of grandparents who can't communicate in writing with their grandchildren?  In the future, will we all be printing...or will pens and pencils become obsolete too?


Harriet said...

Bev, you hurt me. ;) I wrote about cursive last month:

I don't move in the same circles as you, but obviously we have similar experiences. My granddaughters will learn cursive because their mother still believes in handwritten thank you letters.

Mary Z said...

I hate that they're not learnnig cursive, but...

Kwizgiver said...

My students are not taught cursive, either. I have to print block letters on the board or posters. It is a lost art.