Bright and early every morning, my sixth grade students write in a journal and share an idea. With any luck, they find something that gets that pencil flying, keeps their interest for ten minutes and maybe takes them into writing the next day. To help them along the way, they view a slide from Corbett Harrison of Writing Fix that includes my favorite part of the slides; the vocabulary word of the day. Today’s word: anachronistic. Definition: to be regarded as out of date.
Which brings me to cursive writing. An anachronism in today’s world of technology and bad form. I have had a long love affair with cursive writing. I view it as an art form. I love the precise way the letters are formed and interconnect, yet allow one to interpret each letter in a way that becomes part of one’s personality. It may be filled with curlicues, or it may be succinct. It may be flowery, or it may be rigid. And that, my friends, is the art.
I find it interesting to see how a person’s writing changes over the years as it becomes more refined with continued practice, thus becoming a mirror into one’s age, personality and even health. Handwriting becomes easier for most people over time, flowing from the pen or pencil, gliding over the paper with the smooth stroke of youth. It also shows no mercy. It may quiver with age or ill health.
My first exposure to cursive writing was watching my mother write shopping lists and letters, recipes and checks. Her handwriting had curlicues and flair, yet to those that had to read it, perfect readability. When I was learning to write individual letters in cursive and missed several days of school, my mother taught me to write my cursive E. I was so proud to go back to school with my fancy E! To this day, it has an extra loop at the top and bottom and in the middle.
Not all people have met the learning of cursive with the same fervor. For some, from the earliest days, cursive writing was a chore. And like many chores, it was met with disdain as something that had to be learned, practiced, and tolerated.
As you might imagine, I love using cursive and have been told I have beautiful handwriting, something in which I have always felt pride.
So I have met the demise of cursive writing in our school district with sadness. It started with the reduction of writing practice at the lower levels as the curriculum became more packed and then with the idea that it is no longer relevant. Why do students need to learn cursive when most of what they will be doing is done on a keyboard?
As this thinking has permeated throughout the grade levels, so has the number of students who have never learned to write in cursive or whose writing instruction has been the equivalent of a new driver being shown how to start the car, but not how to back up or turn around.
They say there are five steps in the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have felt all of those at various points, as cursive writing has slowly died. Goodbye my dear friend, cursive writing. RIP.