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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The "The Lost Art of Cursive Writing" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Walking around the Landis Run Intermediate School in the Manheim Township School District in Lancaster County, PA taking candid photos of the 5th and 6th graders that I can use in their school yearbook which I produce.  I carry a clipboard and pen with me so the students can give me their name which I will place under their photo.  Always thought it important to have a name with a photo, since 30 or 40 years from now, no one will recognize who the person might be.  Well, I snapped a photo of a young boy and handed him my clipboard and told him to print his name next to a specific number on the paper.  "Don't write it in cursive since I may not recognize your name," I told him.  
Learning to write in cursive.
"What's cursive?" he asked me.  "That's when you write your name with the letters flowing together to form your name," I responded.  "We never do that!
" was his frank answer.  I've been taking photos for the Middle School and Landis Run yearbooks for 18 years now and this boy was the first to ever tell me he didn't know what cursive was.  More than likely most students didn't know what cursive was, but were afraid to ask me what that was.  It's been quite a few years now since students were taught to write in cursive.  I can remember learning cursive writing in the early 1950s, but technology wasn't what it is today.  We didn't have an iPhone when we were in elementary school or an iPad when we were a toddler.  Since this is the age of technology with iPads, cell phones and computers, the theory goes that there isn't a need to teach cursive writing.  
I taught a lesson in graphic arts in Calligraphy.  Now a lost art.
We need to focus more on helping the students use the tools presented to them for future success.  Cursive writing seems to be an outdated skill that's taking up valuable instruction time from learning  keyboarding skills and other computer-based communication and thus not needed in our current society.  How sad!  After telling the student what cursive writing was, he said, "Oh yeah, I have a cursive font on my iPad that I can use if I want, but I can't read what I typed if I use it."  Made me think, so it did.  My daughter recently asked me to write a letter to the son of a woman who lives in the apartment complex she manages in Maryland.  Said that he is in US Army basic training and gets no letters and is lonely.  But, don't write the letter in cursive, since he won't be able to read it.  Wow, really so sad!  
My wife's friend often sends hand-made cards
with her cursive writing on it.  Neat cards!
Writing a letter in one's own hand can be an artistic act.  Handwriting animates the paper you write upon.  At least to me it does.  The bold flairs and elegant flourishes are what set you apart from someone else when writing.  When I taught graphic arts in the same school district, I taught a month-long lesson in Calligraphy.  By the time students were finished with their final document many would tell me how much fun it was to use free-spirited letters to express themselves.  Calligraphy was bypassed when regular cursive writing became popular and now once again, cursive writing is being bypassed since everything is typed on a keyboard.  
How many of today's students in the United States can
read the cursive writing illustrated here?
Students of today can no longer read historical documents such as the Declaration of Indepen- dence or even letters written long ago by their their grandparents.  I'm here to tell you that cursive writing connects us with history, is faster than printing, and in many cases typing on a keyboard, and makes it harder to plagiarize since a student can't cut and paste at will.  And, to say that students need to be prepared for a competitive world in their near future and therefore don't need to learn cursive is a bunch of crap.  Just another reason for not teaching reading, writing and arithmetic as they should  be.  Amen!  So now you can probably guess how old I may be.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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