Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cursory Cursive

Here’s some news that took me by surprise recently. Apparently, 46 states have discontinued the teaching of cursive writing for all students. Do you remember learning to write in cursive in the second grade? Well, kids won’t be doing that anymore.

I think I have mixed opinions about that. First of all, I’ve always been a little obsessed with my handwriting and still continue to try to improve it. I think it’s important – for me anyway. When I studied Russian in college, I was totally inept at the vocabulary and grammar, but my Russian cursive could put Lee Harvey Oswald to shame. 

Here's an excerpt from a letter of mine to a Siberian pen-pal about ten years ago. (Mail to Krasnoyarsk was awfully iffy, but I could scan my handwritten letter, email it to him, and he could read it at an internet cafe.)

But here's my Russian cursive: 

 
Now, isn't that elegant? The grammar is horrid, but it looks nice.  (That's what a Russian friend told me.) 

But you have to admit that it looks like it came from someone who was educated; who had a good handle on what they were expressing.
Like I said, I've always been a little obsessed with my handwriting. 

Now, take a look at a hand-written note from teen idol, Justin Bieber:



This is normal handwriting from anyone under thirty. Their scrawl is hardly legible and it looks like that that of a second-grader. Yes, Bieber's penmanship is horrible but don’t EVEN get me started on his spelling. (In my opinion, he should cancel all his concerts until he learns the proper use of the apostrophe.)

But really -- does this look like someone who is intelligent; or who you'd want to hire to do anything on your behalf -- or someone you'd want your daughter to hitch her wagon to? 
Take a look at the notes again. . . Really. 

Justin:








 Me, in a third language I'd learned, although badly:









Honestly. Would you want your son or daughter hitching their star with someone like Justin or the latter?

Call me old-fashioned. . .  

So, why should kids have to learn to write in cursive? Other than taking essay tests in school, I can’t think of an instance when they would need that skill. We just don’t write anything anymore.

Lots of skills go by the wayside once technology makes their use obsolete. After all, how many people in my generation learned to extract a square root? (Or even know what that is, for that matter.) It’s awfully tedious and calculators freed us from having to learn it.

Believe it or not, I still write letters. I have a pen-pal to whom I’ve written for over thirty years. Writing. Letters only. We don’t even have each other’s email addresses. There are even snail mail clubs – groups of people who write letters to each other the old fashioned way. I’ll admit, I enjoy the retro appeal of it. 

As a pianist, the fine motor skills of the hand that express nuances of thought and emotion pretty much tie in to expressing myself through pen and paper. A postage stamp sends it on its way. 

Does anyone remember what it’s like to receive a handwritten letter in one’s mailbox anymore? Oh, to see that distinct handwriting from your loved-one or family member peering out from your mailbox . . .

I recently wrote letters to my niece and nephew, ages 13 and 10 just so they could experience that. In my letters to them, I explained that this was how we used to communicate; we didn’t have texting or emailing or twittering and phone calls were awfully expensive. I told both of them that I had in my possession, 865 letters written to me from their great-grandmother. Letters like this are a treasure;-- they're like supernatural documents of love from whence we came.

My niece and nephew were probably be quite perplexed at receiving these letters. Knowing my nephew, he probably felt like I'd given him homework to do.

Granted, these kids nowadays have skills that I have not. They can text like lightning; a hand-brain ability that is beyond my comprehension, but one that I can appreciate. They have an innate ability at troubleshooting and repairing PCs that absolutely blows my mind. Their handwriting may look like 2nd grade scrawl to me, but I have to admit that, maybe,  these kids' brains make up for it.

The little darlings are exceedingly sharp.

But if my kid ever wrote a note like Bieber’s, he’d have his cell phone and all electronics taken away until he got that apostrophe thing nailed. 

And if my teen-age daughter ever received a note from a guy written like Bieber's,  -- oh my god -- I cannot imagine the uncontrolled arguing and screaming that would take place in our household. 

Most of it, admittedly, would be mine. 
_________________________



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5 Comments:

At 9:37 AM , OpenID diatribesandovations.com said...

Awesome post! I'm with you 100%! I've already ranted about this topic (http://diatribesandovations.com/2011/07/11/ovation-why-teach-cursive-handwriting-if-you-dont-teach-butter-churning-or-mule-shoeing/) but not with the elegance and poise that you possess! Keep up the good work!

 
At 11:56 AM , Blogger William V. Madison said...

Excellent topic! But with regard to your cursive letters to younger members of your family, I wonder whether kids today are being taught to read cursive — some of the letters are pretty far from their typed or printed counterparts.

As for Bieber, it does seem from that writing sample that he's not being taught much of anything while he pursues his career. Here's hoping that he'll have plenty of time to catch up on his lessons, later in life. Or sooner....

 
At 1:14 PM , Blogger LDFrey said...

Your so eloquent. ;)

BTW, the last actual handwritten letter that I received was from you, Jonathan!

 
At 10:01 AM , Blogger S'A said...

My kids (ages 19 and 21) were barely taught cursive and weren't expected to write it. When I was in school, we were required to write in cursive after the 3rd grade! I have a hard time reading my 21 year-old's printed hand writing, and she has a hard time reading in cursive. It really is becoming a lost art!

 
At 9:36 AM , Blogger Barb said...

My son can't really write in cursive which really is a shame. It's something I keep meaning to work with him on. I will say though, his printing is pretty impressive as is my daughters' so at least they are doing that right. As far as hand written letters.. I require all of my kids to send handwritten thank yous for all sent gifts and my dad and I actually write letters back and forth. My daughter and my SIL also were pen pals before my SIL passed away. She cherishes those letters. Great post

 

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