Out of curiosity, to see if abandonment of cursive writing is widespread, I “googled” the term. Here’s what Wikipedia summarizes as the criticism of teaching cursive. There are, it seems, many good reasons for ceasing the teaching of cursive.
When I relayed this information to my husband, who taught science to 7th graders over 25 years ago, he wondered if students are still being taught to read it. What an interesting question. And what incredible changes in communication this news stresses.
As a college English instructor, I have an abiding interest in developments in communication. I know that language is living, dynamic, constantly changing. Words are added to the dictionary every year. In fact, this year’s word, according to the American Dialect Society, is “plutoed” as in “to demote or devalue someone or something”. You know, like Pluto was a planet until it got voted out of the solar system.
Rough comparison of the sizes of Earth and Pluto, image created by NASA
But it is clearly computers that have had the greatest impact on communication. We have been a computer family since. . .the beginning of personal computers. We got our first home computer in 1984! It was a Texas Instruments 99 A.
Image from http://oldcomputers.net/ti994a.html
The display monitor was a regular color television. It had no real memory, and we stored any data on a regular tape recorder. Our next computer was a huge upgrade—an Apple II C.
Our son, who had majored in math during college, was drawn to computer programming and decided to get a master’s degree in computer program. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). On one of our first visits to see him, we took a couple extra days and hence needed to get an educational excuse to justify our daughter, who was still in middle school, missing classes. So, our son said he would show us something that was just beginning to be popularized: the Worldwide Web! That was 1994.
Back to the impending loss of cursive handwriting. As someone who has written an occasional article, I have used primary sources. In writing a biography of my paternal grandparents, I had access to letters they had written to each other during their days of courting. Back and forth these letters flew, between Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. All in handwriting that was distinctive and wonderful to read.
I do wonder about future biographers who will be bereft of such material. Will emails take the place of letters? How could they. First, they are unlikely to be saved. Second, they will lack all character of individuality. Much as I prefer to do my writing composition on a keyboard, there is something so particular and special about handwriting.
Some years ago, when the marvelous historic downtown church I attend celebrated its 200th anniversary (that counts as old in this country!), I helped assemble material for a church history. I went back through the Session minutes. (For all you non-Presbyterians, the Session is the equivalent of the church board.) These minutes, extending as far back as 1794, were hand-written in wonderful pale brown ink (faded, no doubt, over time) in a spidery crawl of writing that spread across the page. At times, it was difficult to read. The recording secretary (a man, of course, for this was in the days long before women were eligible for church office) had perfectly legible hand-writing. But how the letters were formed has changed. A lower case f looks like an s. So, a word like success looks remarkably like succeff. I had to keep translating to myself. It is no surprise that today all these minutes are neatly word processed. All individuality is lost.
Much as I love computers and the Internet, as my fingers dance along over the keys, I mourn the loss of the individual touch of hand-writing. With its demise, the experience of picking up a piece of paper written in someone’s very recognizable hand will be lost.