For all the work I do at the computer keyboard, I still like to write by hand. I’ve never held an old-fashioned fountain pen but I think that good quality ballpoints and fine felt tips are a pleasure to use. There’s something about the tactileness of putting ink on paper in smooth swirls. I lift my writing instrument at the end of words and at punctuation, which corresponds with my thought process.
There’s quite a debate going on over cursive writing and manuscript writing (printing). Some say cursive, the form taken by the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence, is not necessary today. These can be read on a page or screen where they’ve been transferred to one typeface or another.
Um. That might be OK if the founding documents of our country were the only things ever looped and undercurved, but they were not. Generations have recorded their lives in cursive writing. Do we really want to chuck it like we did butter churns and eight-track tapes? Are we going to put it in the category of foreign languages for which translation is necessary? Maybe we’ll soon have electives in high school for cursive writing, like we do French and Spanish. That makes so much sense. Oh — some suggest that handwriting be delegated to Art class in elementary school, which will make the same people happy when they get rid of Art and Music altogether.
Part of pro-cursive rationality is that it is more efficient than printing. Rounded and connected letters don’t require the pen or pencil to leave the paper within a word, like the old “ball and stick” marks do. Some have told me they can print as fast as they can write. I think I claimed that too, at one point.
When I was in charge of a classroom, handwriting was a great get-going activity in the morning before the bell rang. I’d give kids samples tied to history or science, and urge them to take their time turning out the best paper they could. Seeing their legibility improve over the year gave all of us satisfaction; individuality was honored and appreciated. Yes, there are times and places for printing, and for typing on a computer. There are just as many for cursive writing.
I turn a black-and-white picture over to read where it was taken, when it was taken, and on whom the camera was focusing. That’s in cursive. I look for a recipe of my mother’s. That’s in cursive. I research letters and journals of a prominent 19th Century American family at an academic library. They are, too, in cursive. I sign my name at the bottom of a house mortgage or car loan, for Pete’s sake. In cursive! My signature is part of who I am. We should give kids the opportunity to have cursive writing be part of who they are, too.