Cursive. That archaic mode of recording one’s thoughts.
I have been spending some small bit of my spare time trying to remember how cursive handwriting works. I had abandoned it shortly after graduating high school. This was due both to my block letters being vastly more legible, and the increasing uselessness of handwriting in everyday life. I do remember, as a younger sibling wanting to learn cursive to be like my older sister and her friends. That squiggly, contiguous form of penmanship that they were learning made them seem so much more like adults who seemed to have this ability to pay for nearly anything by simply swiping a pen across the checkbook. This was of course before the prevalence of debit cards which opened up a whole new series of wondrous mysteries where purchasing options were concerned1. It seemed so fancy and beautiful. I was so fascinated by it that I got scolded once or twice by a teacher for drawing lines between my print letters to connect them.
When I had finally reached the age that it was deemed reasonable to be enlightened by the public education system as to the eldritch secrets of what I was assured to be the defacto way of writing2 I soon discovered the hand cramping agony of each loop and arc. My mind numbed at the similarities of lowercase L and B, the capitals T and F had the same issue, and the letter X was basically a V with a line through it. And what the hell was the going on with Z? My technique was awful and my teachers went to great efforts to point this out. My L’s didn’t have enough loop, and my T’s had too much (which is to say any). The little hooks of the letters O, V, and B left me at a loss as to how to start the next letter3, did I just start them at mid stroke or did I bring the pen down to the bottom of the line and start there, either answer seemed wrong at some point or other. I never remembered to dot my i’s or cross my t’s and when I did it was because I had broken the rules and not waited until I had completed the whole word. When I tried to write more neatly I wasn’t able to finish assignments in time and was marked off for having my papers uncompleted. Continued years of physical and psychological anguish over the subject did not improve matters. The introduction of a typewritten requirement to my reports and essays helped to greatly advance my self-worth.
Why then, am I revisiting this ancient horror?
I wouldn’t trouble myself, believe me I am not a masochist. It seems there is no plan to teach it at my daughter’s school. Now, I really don’t think it is all that important. Quite frankly it seems that most of the people who I’ve spoken to who are upset about the removal of cursive from the curriculum are people who still hold a grudge about having to learn it when they were young4. But anyway, my wife has mentioned in passing that she thinks we should teach her ourselves. Which I feel ultimately means I am going to end up trying to show her how it’s done And if that’s is the case, well I should have at least something resembling proficiency in the task.
I’d like to think that the price of keeping art and music in her school is the loss of cursive I am perfectly fine with that. Sadly that’s not the case. Art and Music will consistently be on the chopping block, because just like cursive it isn’t part of the standardized tests. The schools are beholden to these damn tests in order to maintain funding and resources, and so more funding and time is funneled to teaching towards the tests. That’s a negative feedback loop that is draining all of the actual education out of schools. We aren’t losing cursive to laziness, we’re losing it to bureaucracy.
Anyway, that’s What I’ve been thinking about over the past week. How about you?
- I really do long for those days when I was a child and had no need for the petty adult realities of personal finance ↩
- Apparently they didn’t discuss the matter with my Mechanical Drawing instructor who just a year later would spend weeks teaching us the importance of perfectly drawn block capitals. ↩
- If, while in grade school, I had been asked to write the word “bovine” there would have been an… incident. ↩
- And damn it, if I had to shovel coal when we were kids then this lazy, good for nuthin’ generation should have to shovel coal too, by gum. ↩
- Wow it’s been almost a year since I typed those two words. And I still love me some footnotes. ↩