Cursive writing was supposed to be dead by now. Schools would stop teaching it. Kids would stop learning it. Everyone would stop using it. The Common Core standards adopted by most states in recent years no longer required teaching cursive in public schools, and the widespread reaction was succinct: good riddance.
But like Madonna and newspapers, cursive has displayed a gritty staying power, refusing to have its loop de loops and curlicues swept to the dustbin of handwriting history. Just last month, Louisiana passed a law requiring that all traditional public schools and public charter schools begin teaching cursive by third grade and continue through 12th grade. Arkansas legislators passed a law mandating cursive instruction last year. And 10 other states, including Virginia, California, Florida and Texas, have cursive writing requirements in their state education standards.
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Though it was widely taught in schools in the early 20th century, cursive’s dominance has been in jeopardy ever since. First it was threatened by printed handwriting, and then it fell further from favor as typewriters, personal computers, laptops and tablets gained widespread use. More recently, the smartphone has become cursive’s chief enemy as the graceful, fluid lines of sentences inked on paper by a carefully gripped pen have rapidly given way to tweets and texts battered out with indifferent thumbs on mini keyboards or screens.
— Once all but left for dead, is cursive handwriting making a comeback?, Joe Heim, The Washington Post (July 26, 2016).
A few weeks ago, Russell and I were engaged in a family drawing session, where crayons and paper dominate all else. After drawing a picture of our family, we began writing [S]’s name with crayons, in various colors and styles. Her name was written in lower case letters. Her name was in capital letters. And then Russell wrote her name in cursive. Well, maybe. I looked at the S. “Is that right? Is that how you write a capital S in cursive? It looks funny.” It was enough to make him doubt whether it was properly written. Google confirmed he had correctly recalled his cursive capital letter, but for me, I had to practice the letter several times before muscle memory kicked in.
Those who know me well, know that I am fond of the handwritten note, be it to thank someone for their kindness or to comfort someone during troubling times. Truly, one of my favorite reasons to write is just to say hello. My problem is that my handwriting is atrocious. This is not an exaggeration. Indeed, my Husband can hardly make out my penned notes. Typically, my writing is a mix of print and cursive, with print being dominant. (Obviously. I haven’t had occasion to write a cursive S in years.) I can’t help but wonder whether writing entirely in cursive would improve the legibility of my writing.
After reading of the creative and analytical benefits derived from writing in cursive, I started writing my case notes in cursive. At first the words looked shaky and uneven. But as with most things, my writing improved with time and practice. That is, for those letters I recall how to write in cursive. Embarrassingly, I still need to look up how to write certain letters in cursive. This, from someone who was taught cursive by way of drills.
Overall, I find the experience much like eating with chopsticks or, as we have recently attempted, eating with one’s non-dominant hand at mealtime–at once challenging and engaging. But when it comes to writing in cursive, I have an added incentive to master the craft. I recall the joy of receiving beautifully penned notes from my Grandmother. Her right-leaning penmanship appeared so fine and delicate, it was as if each written word was a gift to be treasured. And her script so distinctive and unique, I can see it in my mind’s eye today.