Look at it again. Apparently, according to this article in the NY Times, it may be one of the last times you'll see it.
Until recently, one could walk into any elementary classroom just about anywhere and see cursive lettering posted somewhere in the room. Apparently, that is less and less the case.
Students nationwide are still taught cursive, but many school districts are spending far less time teaching it and handwriting in general than they were years ago, said Steve Graham, a professor of education at Vanderbilt University. Most schools start teaching cursive in third grade, Professor Graham said. In the past, most would continue the study until the fifth or sixth grades — and some to the eighth grade — but many districts now teach cursive only in third grade, with fewer lessons.Well, is poetry a 21st-century skill? Or, writing romantic love letters?
“Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century,” said Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School in Cohoes, N.Y., who is debating whether to cut cursive. “Is cursive really a 21st-century skill?”
Come to think of it, does anyone still write romantic love letters, or is everything communicated in text messages and emails?
In 'text', 143 = I love you. One number for each of the letters in each of the words.
It's clever, but you know, that just doesn't do it for me.
I love getting or giving little handwritten notes that say "I Love You" at the end. In cursive writing, of course.
In the classrooms of my elementary school - starting around the third grade and continuing until about the sixth grade - we practiced cursive writing. We had penmanship classes, and penmanship contests the way we also had math and spelling and reading contests.
|Baby Jesus feeding the Pagan Babies|
It went like this: You had to bring in a dime every week (some of the nuns allowed you to bring in pennies or nickels which you could save up and exchange for a dime) which would then fit into a slot on a poster which had your name on it. When you got to $1, you were allowed to 'name' your Pagan Baby and the money would be sent "to the missions" so "Father" could baptize one of the little Pagan Babies with your name.
Sister told us that we were saving the "little savages" Africa or Laos or Cambodia or Viet Nam, baptizing them in the name of Jesus. I know. Hard to believe that we once talked that way - and, meant it.
There were 30-40 kids in my class. We had Pagan Baby Contests every 10 weeks. Not a bad fundraising scheme, eh? I used to imagine that there was a village in Viet Nam or Africa somewhere with lots of girls named "Elizabeth".
Anyway, even the Pagan Baby Chart and the Pagan Baby Certificate you got were all written in Cursive.
We would practice and practice and practice our cursive writing, following the broken lines that formed each upper or lower case letter and number, until it was letter-perfect. Then, we were allowed to go on our own.
Sister would sit at her desk and call out a letter: "Upper Case 'G"'. She'd repeat it three times slowly enough for us to scan the banners around the room or the poster near her desk which displayed the alphabet in cursive writing.
"Lower case 'd'". "Lower case 'd'". "Lower. Case. 'd'".
Toward the end of the year, Sister would get out her egg-timer. We'd go through a similar exercise, but the one who finished first would get a special prize.
Usually, it was another Pagan Baby, but this time, you knew enough to choose Sister's name. Or, Father's name. It was just good Roman Catholic piety not bring too much attention to yourself and share your good fortune with others.
Sally Bennett, an 18-year-old freshman at Central Arkansas, signs her name in all capital letters and never gave any thought to it until she took the ACT college entrance exam. Students must copy a prompt, with explicit instructions that they do not print. So the classroom of test-takers tried cursive, Ms. Bennett said.I know. I know. Some of you are giggling and making snide remarks about Arkansas. Stop that. There are other, critically important things to consider.
“Some people in there couldn’t remember,” she said. “I had to think about it for a minute. It was kind of hard for me to remember.”
People are unemployed. People do not have access to adequate health care. People all over the world are starving. Not to mention the fact that our educational system, itself, is in a shambles.
So, why am I distressed about the apparent demise of cursive writing?
No, I'm mourning the loss of the artistry of cursive writing. The beauty of it, when done well. The personalization of a handwritten note. The romance of its lovely swirls and curves.
So enamoured am I with cursive writing that whenever I see a little stationary store in town, I always stop in and buy a little something, just to do my part to keep the tradition alive.
I always try to write out personal notes of thanks after dinner with friends, but I have succombed, of late, to sending out Jacqueline Lawson email cards for birthdays and anniversaries or special holidays.
I draw the line at sending out email condolences for deaths. I'm sorry. I think it's just tacky.
I should be glad, I suppose, for progress. At least now we're allowing left handed-kids to write with their left hand. If I heard it once, I heard Sister remind us three times a day that the Latin word for 'left' is 'sinistra', from which the word 'sinister' is derived, and no one wants to be called 'sinister'.
It was cold comfort as I watched some of my classmates with their left hand tied (!!) to the chair of their desk so they wouldn't be 'tempted by Satan' to use it.
While I'm glad we have a better understanding of brain function, when it comes to the demise of cursive writing, I fear we're throwing out the baby with the bath water, as it were.
Just the other day, a story hit the media about historians finding a stack of index cards in the Ronald Reagan Library.
In his own hand - in "impeccable writing" - were quotes Reagan would use in his speeches. Another stack of index cards contained one-liners and jokes. It has all been collected and will appear in a new book called, simply, The Notes.
Biographer Douglas Brinkley, who edited The Notes, writes
All of the notes were handwritten. When Reagan was recopying various quotations, he was especially neat. His scrawl is impeccable—seldom does he employ a cross-out or correct a mis-start. Clearly, legibility was a high priority to him. Sometimes he uses an asterisk or makes a hearty underline for emphasis. Shorthand is often the order of the day.I could never be described as a fan of "Uncle Ronny" - I still remember government cheese, number 16 cans of peanut butter, ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches, and, of course, AIDS - but I just might pick up that book about him the next time I'm in a bookstore.
Yes, I still go to bookstores, even though I love my Kindle.
I think one page of cursive writing can tell you more about a person than an entire megabyte of emails.
If there were a font on 'blogspot' in cursive, I would use it all the time, risking as I would, a certain percentage of younger readers.
"Is cursive writing really a 21st-century skill?"
Is art a 21st century skill? Do beauty and romance have no place in our future?
Beauty and romance and art may not define progress, but they define the humanity of our civilization.
If you look closely, in between the dips and curves and flowing lines of prose or poetry or notes, you'll find the face of an individual human being - someone who had passion and emotion and humor behind their thoughts and opinions.
You simply can't convey all that in an emoticon.
And, without a vehicle to express individual passion and emotion and humor, I fear whatever progress we make will not much advance civilization.
Gandhi was once asked what he thought about Western Civilization. He said, "I think it's a good idea."
I do, too. But I don't think we're going to build it on block lettering.
I can hear some of you wail, "Oh, but my handwriting is so bad!" Well, I think the nuns of my youth would be horrified to see my handwriting today.
Don't like your handwriting? Well, work on it. Practice until it gets better. I'm planning to do that, starting today.
Think of it this way: you'll be making your own artistic contribution to the advancement of civilization - one lovely cursive letter at a time.
'143' is okay. It's alright, as far as it goes.
"I love you," written by hand, in cursive style, just might communicate a beauty that could launch a thousand ships.