I’ve recently seen a ton of articles about the “dying art of cursive” that raise some really interesting questions about writing. Throughout my entire 4th grade year, unless my classmates and I were instructed otherwise, EVERYTHING was written in cursive. In most schools today, however, cursive instruction is seen as a waste of time, especially unnecessary given the high-tech nature of our world. No Child Left Behind and the Common Core have led to the emphasis of technological skills at the expense of learning cursive. Most columns I’ve read have decried this as a cultural travesty, a trend that robs young and future generations of the experience of writing, reading, and understanding cursive. While I agree with these critics to some extent, they’re considering the issue too narrowly. More significant that the decline of cursive alone is the loss of the physical act of writing in general.
When I was younger I loved to write. I loved forming ideas and expressing them in writing, but almost more than that I loved creating letters with my own hand. Call me weird, but I loved taking notes, writing lists, copying poems, signing my name over and over and over. I loved the way words changed when I wrote with a Ticonderoga, mechanical pencil, BIC Crystal or a gel pen. When I wanted to improve my handwriting in 6th grade, I asked my classmate with the most perfect penmanship to write the block alphabet on an index card so I could trace it and make my words as beautiful as hers. Today, as an increasing number of schools replace notebooks with laptops and textbooks with iPads, the very individual process of developing handwriting falls by the wayside. While we tend to not give our handwriting very much thought, I think it really reflects our personality and is a visual manifestation of the ways we’ve changed over time. By demanding that every written word be typed out in Times New Roman, schools are kind of superimposing foreign rhetorical choices on students. We can alter our meaning by changing fonts, but the font is not ours; we didn’t create it like we create our handwriting. While the forward march of technology in schools is inevitable, I do think that students must be allowed and encouraged to write things out, in cursive, block letters, whatever they want. I think the physical act of writing creates a deeper, more fundamental connection between the writer and the thoughts they’re expressing.
– Mary Kate