It was in second grade that Mrs. Kelly attempted to teach me to write in cursive. By some strange fluke, I was the only left-handed student in the class. I remember sitting at the back of the classroom filling in math worksheets while she led the rest of the class through complex curlicues and how to connect the capital H to the lower-case E.
Later, when Mrs. Kelly had finished the lesson for the others and they were diligently working, she would spend a couple minutes with me.
She made certain I had the basics, but I wouldn’t exactly call it differentiated instruction.
As a result, my handwriting has always endeavored to be, but never quite reached the status of, penmanship.
So, when I read this piece on Indiana’s decision to halt the mandated teaching of cursive in Hoosier schools and this impassioned piece from Vancouver mourning it’s death, I sat open-gobbed for a few moments.
I wasn’t alone.
A little bit of digging showed slews of comments wherever the story turned up. People are feeling some kind of way about Indiana’s decision.
I’d write, “Indiana’s decision to kill cursive,” by my handwriting took care of that long ago.
Because of that, I don’t write in cursive. When I take notes, it’s printed and shorthand and all over the page. It’s nothing that could be contained by the tri-lined paper of elementary school. When I return to it, though, to remind myself what I learned or heard, I know what I meant. If I need to share it, I type it. And, never, do I sit at the keyboard thinking how much better it would be if I were writing a cursive version of anything.
Doug Kennedy, quoted by Cincinnati’s WKRC 12, said. “When you’re born, someone signs your birth certificate. When you’re married, you have to sign your marriage license. When you die, someone’s going to sign your death certificate. All these things are important aspects of your life.”
I’m with Kennedy. Those signatures happen.
But they didn’t always.
Did we think they would?
Without cursive, people won’t stop being born, getting married or dying. We’ll just signify it some other way.
Most commonly, those opposed to the optionalization (with no more cursive, it’s a world gone mad and anyone can make up words) question how these poor children will sign their names to documents as they grow older.
I don’t have any other answer to that question than, we’ll figure something out.
And that’ll be fine.
Language is an arbitrary, symbolic devise that moves to fit the needs and tools of the times and cultures in which it is being used.
I love calligraphy. It is an art I have all the more appreciation for because I do not practice it. When communicating, I want my medium to make my message as accessible as possible. Indiana has taken a step toward that objective.
Writing for The Vancouver Sun with a full-throated defense of cursive, Naomi Lakritz had this to say:
There’s one more crucial reason kids need to know how to write longhand.
As any teacher will attest, writing things down helps children remember. Typing at a keyboard does not. There is something about the act of writing that makes information stick.
Sure. It’s true.
We know having kids learn by teaching and doing are even better conduits to building the synaptic relays of memory, so maybe we can cut the lectures requiring them to take the notes Lakritz worries about and have them learn by doing – maybe in an art class.
I’m not worried children won’t be able to read cursive. I’m worried they won’t know how to read.
The two are related, but not interdependent.