Friday, April 29, 2011

So Long to Longhand?

The New York Times reported Thursday that the handwriting is already on the wall for handwriting in American education, with "the sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet...going the way of the quill and inkwell." That's raising some interesting questions about the future of letters. How will Bart Simpson be punished from now on? And more seriously, what will we as culture lose by dropping this formative connection to our past?

More than a few educators are non-plussed by the non-use of "the fancier ABC's" by today's school children, the Times tell us. "Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century," says one elementary school principal. "Is cursive really a 21st-century skill?”

But with an increasing number of Americans unable to read -- let alone write -- the classic English script, some  experts are concerned that students may be missing out on formative fine-motor skills, and historians worry that people lose an important connection to archival materials. Meanwhile, graphologists foresee a possible increase in forgery, since it's easier to fake block-lettering than proper cursive.

For others the loss is more intangible. "It's hard for me to make a practical arguement for it," says University of Portland education professor Richard S. Christen. "I'm mourning the beauty, the aesthetics."

All that makes us wonder: do you still use cursive to communicate? Does the way you scrawl change the way you think? And if penmanship as we knew it goes the way of the dodo, what about those loopy letters will you miss most?

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