Friday, November 18, 2011

She Might Be Right

By Heather Webber / Heather Blake

My daughter, aka Baby Girl, was chatting away at the dinner table the other night and suddenly she said, “My second grade teacher lied to me.”

She’s 16. Obviously, she’s been harboring this grudge for a while.

Me: About what?
Her: Cursive.

Turns out her second-grade teacher had harped on the students about learning proper cursive. A lesson we all probably learned around second grade as well.

Her: I never have to use it. All my papers are type-written. Everything else is printed.

She stared at Mr. W and me accusingly as if we had been accomplices. I suppose, since we enforced homework, we had been.

I tried to think of some reason why she needed cursive—and other than signatures (which are most often unreadable) I couldn't think of a single one. Do you write in cursive? I still do, more often than not, and even my print writing is a bit of a hybrid between print and cursive, but I grew up in a different generation.

Is my daughter right? Is cursive not needed anymore? Is it a dying art?


Dru said...

I just read something about this the other day. I write a little bit of both in the same sentence or paragraphs.

J. Steven York said...

It's funny, I was thinking about this very thing this afternoon, as my wife and I were discussing a gift pen that was too nice not to use, but too nice to carry because I'll just lose it. My wife Chris (AKA cozy-writers Christy Evans and Christy Fifield) said, "when do you ever use a pen anyway?"

She had a point. I rarely take handwritten notes any more. I do all my writing on computer. I don't carry a checkbook any more, and I've written maybe three checks all year (and when I am forced to write one, I have to remember how to do it all over again).

Fact is, being a bit dyslexic, left handed, and having gone through the first two years and a half years of school seriously nearsighted and not having glasses, my handwriting has always been horrible.

I wrote dozens of stories and scripts, plus the first draft of my first novel, longhand, but I printed them. I can (well, could, I'm out of practice on that too) print as quickly as most people write cursive.

But fact is, I gave up on cursive somewhere back around college, and now, the only vestige of it is my (completely unreadable) signature. I couldn't write a sentence in cursive now if you held a gun to my head.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder if writing of all kinds is going the way of the dodo. Pocket-sized text-to-speech is already here. People don't send mail, they send email. They don't leave notes, they send texts. It will last for a while, maybe another generation, but I have the feeling it's going the way of Latin, if not shorthand.

Aimee said...

You could also argue with automated checks and text speak, we need not teach spelling or grammar.

Some would argue (math haters probably) that we should stop teaching basic math skills because every smartphone has a calculator now.

You could posit the argument that we should stop teaching history because we're all going to die when the planet gets too hot.

But those arguments are silly. Except for the slippery slope we started with the "why teach cursive if we don't really need it" question.

Sadly, many schools have already abandoned cursive in their blind adherence to teaching to the test.

I may not need cursive but I use it when I make notes at work. I do it because it makes me happy to see it on the page, as useless as it is.

Some skills once attained are their own reward.

Try that one out on her, Heather. :)

Brittney said...

I am of a younger generation as I'm still in my mid 20's and I still write everyday. I work in an office and I'm on a computer most of the day, but I must take notes all day to stay organized (even though I'm not all that organized anyways). My writing is a mix of print and cursive. I don't think writing will ever go away completely. My three best friends use it all the time as well, a dental assistant, teacher, and mental health supervisor. Each of them need it in the same way as I do, keeping notes, organizing thoughts. Most of it will be typed later but it will always be the best way to keep track right in the moment.

Heather Blake Webber said...

Dru, me too. My actual printing is horrible. :)

J. Steven, I hope technology doesn't take over completely! Tell Chris I said hi!

LOL, Aimee. Such a mom thing to say. Be prepared for the rolling of the eyes. (But I agree!) :)

Britney, interesting that a lot of us use a hybrid of printing and cursive... Maybe we're creating a "new" form of cursive? I do love the look of old-fashioned cursive. So pretty.

Dawn said...

You also need to learn it so that you can read that hand written note your boss just handed you for you to type up.

Kate Maxwell said...

I have heard that they are no longer teaching cursive in elementary school as well. It's a shame. You can tell a generation by their handwriting! Nowadays, as a teacher, it is ever difficult to read handwritten answers on tests, as handwriting has become so bad!

Debra said...

I thought one of the points of teaching cursive is so the students can enhance their fine motor skills. I used to think it would relate to drawing but my son's handwriting is unreadable and yet he can draw beautifully.
The nuns told us ball point pens were very,very bad. Anyone remember cartridges for ink pens?
One day they handed out plastic ball points with indents for our third grade fingers. You could tell the older nuns did not approve.

Jamie Dierks said...

I think cursive is important in so many ways. And yes, I still use it everyday. I take notes, sign my name, write a personal letter (yes, with a pen and paper, and I even put it in a real envelope and mail). With computers and email, we've become so impersonal. This is great for a hermit like me, but not all together proper.
And what will all of those handwriting analysis people do for a living?

Brenda Hyde said...

First I must say that your daughter is what mine will be like at 16. Actually she's already like that at 11. LOL

Did anyone actually like learning cursive? I remember the teacher coming up an yanking the pencil out of our hand-if she couldn't do it we were holding it too hard. Crazy teachers. LOL Actually, I think it's important to learn cursive. People will always use it in SOME way- and if you can't write it, you can't read it. Plus, we learn to develop our signature with it.

I use cursive a lot still, but I also use printing, and a combo of both.

Mary said...

She needs cursive to sign contracts and other important things. If she prints her name, it can easily be forged and her identity can easily be stolen. Plus, it's cool. And she does need to know how to read it, since many write in it (including a future boss, possibly) and there are pretty cursive fonts out there!

Heather Blake Webber said...

Dawn, LOL. I suppose that comes in handy.

Kate, how long until *everything* is done on a computer? Kind of sad.

Debra, that's interesting between the art and the handwriting. Maybe a different part of the brain?

Jamie Lee, I write a lot, too. I'd probably still be doing all my rough drafts in notebooks if not for forearm tendonitis. And I write lots of notes --in the real mail too. Also a dying art. :( LOL on the handwriting analysts. Good question!

LOL, Brenda, what I hated was learning how to tell time. Missed recess time and everything because of it. Thank goodness for digital clocks. :) I guess THAT'S a blog for another day...

Mary, Baby Girl's cursive is beautiful. She just doesn't find it very useful. LOL. She's not at an age where she signs her name a lot, but she will be soon. :)

Judy S. said...

As a 3rd-grade teacher, I still teach cursive. 3rd-graders are SO proud when they can start writing words in cursive. I'm also on a curriculum committee that's been debating whether or not we still should be teaching cursive. I still say yes. I find it really sad when my 14 year old son can't read hand-written notes that he gets from his grandma. So much of family history, and world history, is found in the handwritten letters from the past. I still use cursive all the time to write notes, cards, comments on papers (make 'em figure out what it says!!) For some kids who struggle in other areas in school, their cursive makes them proud. I don't think we need to spend hours and hours on trying to achieve perfect "textbook" cursive, but I do think cursive "literacy" (if there is such a term) is still a worthwhile standard.

Kristin A. said...

I read your post earlier, but needed to take some time to think about this. For sure we all need to know how to sign our name and read the signatures of others (although oftentimes they are illegible!). More so than that, though, cursive handwriting is what the generations before us used commonly. Can we imagine the thought of our children not being able to read journals, cards, and letters written by generations past? Can we imagine the possibility of our children not being able to read the original Constitution or Declaration of Independence? What a very sad day that would be. I assume that if one cannot write cursive that they cannot read it as well, but perhaps I am wrong with that thought (my oldest is still learning to read period). This is certainly an interesting debate and I appreciated the thoughts of Judy S. who said that perhaps spending hours trying to perfect our student's cursive isn't the best use of time anymore, but rather at least achieving "cursive 'literacy' still a worthwhile standard." I am very curious to find if my daughter's school teaches cursive (our oldest just started kindergarten). Thanks for the food for thought today, Heather. Tell your daughter what fun we all had discussing this today and that, certainly, there is no conspiracy against her. :)

Katherine said...

I use a print cursive hybrid and have done so since I graduated from high school which is many years behind me.

My 10 year old nephew hasn't learned cursive and I don't think it's being taught in his school district. Since he was at my home visiting today, I asked him if he had started learning cursive writing yet. He didn't even know what it was. He looked at me a long time and said he didn't think his dad would let him learn that because he's not allow to curse. Cute but sad that cursive does seem to be a dying form of writing.

Anonymous said...

I use cursive daily with a cartridge pen and ink cartridges in my diary which I have been keeping for years.

Shirley in Baltimore

Diane P said...

I dislike cursive, probably because mine never was beautiful. I had to stop using cursive when I had several Russian students in my class. They couldn't read it. They were having enough trouble learning to read print like in books, never thought it was another language.

I used quite a bit of technology with my students and really got to the point where I feel the time is better spent doing other things.

Lynda said...

I was discussing this recently. I agree with Kristen that if students aren't taught cursive they may never be able to read things written by prior generations (plus I love the look of cursive and would hate to see it become a "lost art").

I also was discussing the fact that a lot of kids can't tell time unless it's digital - and can't do math without a calculator (although I admit that I rely a lot on a calculator because - even though I took years of math - it's still my weak point).

And finally, I was discussing that, because of abbreviations used in texting, I wonder if kids will ever be able to write complete, readable sentences. Can you imagine beautifully written books like your's if they were written in texting shorthand? Nope - can't picture that and don't really want to.

Aurian said...

I have to write a lot at my job, and I have "invented" my personal mix of type letters and cursive. That which writes fastest.

Heather said...

I like what Aimee said, and said so well.

I do still use cursive almost every day, and I feel it is still a skill worth teaching. If for no other reason, there is the fact that most historical documents -- whether they are found online or in brick-and-mortar archives -- are written in cursive. If you can write it, you'll have an easier time reading it.

Barbara said...

As an historian, I echo the comments of Kristin A. and others that we need to be able to read old documents, and I admire the beautiful handwriting of people of previous eras.

As a person of a certain age, I write every day. I still write checks because I fear what would happen if my computer crashed. No financial documents exist on mine. I love to write letters and cards, I still make lists, I make notes while I read, I write first drafts by hand. Printing is too slow for me - I use cursive.

Aryn said...

I use my best cursive when I write thank you notes. Tell her she will use hers too when she writes thank you notes for wedding gifts and for baby gifts when she gives you grandbabies. :)

Vickie said...

I still write my letters to friends and family in cursive. I think we still need to know how to do this, especially after I read one of my dystopia/post-apocalyptic books or watch an episode of Falling Skies, and think about what if everything gets hit by EMP and we have to go back to 'the olden days'.

That's not to say that I don't type out on a computer, but I like cursive and am glad that Lady K is still learning cursive in third grade. And it makes her feel like a grownup.