If you have been away from the education system for several years and are now getting your child ready for school, you may be among those surprised to find out that the course in handwriting is no longer mandatory. Since 2010, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English, which do not require cursive instruction, but leave it up to the individual states and districts to decide whether they want to teach it. Currently, at least 41 states have made teaching cursive writing optional.
The debate has been active for years now. There are those who relish the thought of abandoning the “ancient task” of teaching handwriting in favor of emphasizing the need for students to only learn how to print and master typing instead. That argument is valid, considering most careers and practically all college courses require computer skills to get ahead, or at the very least, to turn in assignments.
Then, there are traditionalists who advocate that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting rather than a keyboard. There is concern that children will lose the ability to read grandma’s handwritten letters or decipher elegant writings in historical documents. Some experts conclude that cursive writing aids those with dyslexia, based on the fact that letters in cursive stay on a base line, the pen moves fluidly from left to right, and words are connected, helping those who have trouble forming words correctly.
But I see things from an angle few studies capture. Anytime technology supersedes a time-honored skill, I get queasy that in the quest for things faster, bigger, and richer, we are whittling away at our own humanity.
As a writer, editor, and avid reader, I am a perfect example of someone who relies on technology to communicate. Typing on a keyboard is faster than putting pen to paper, for sure. My flying fingers have seen me through tight deadlines, award-winning accolades, and the fruition of editing many published books; I understand the necessity and efficiency of our need to live plugged in. But in the end, speed and accuracy have never really fed my soul.
Whenever I desire to record something profound or capture a special moment, I reach for my favorite fountain pen and beloved journal to write it down. In handwritten silence, without the sound of pounding keys, I can think thoughtfully with ease and calm. At the peak of my editorial prowess, I found myself starting to write frantically – the way I typed professionally. The faster I wrote, the less I enjoyed it. In order to receive the joy of writing, I had to remind myself to slow down. Only then could I feel the glide of ink on quality paper, or guide my connected letters into graceful words.
As a lover of all things pertaining to our past, present and future, I accept state-of-the-art technology. But I hope more than anything that we never abandon the things that made us so sophisticated in the first place – creativity, character, consciousness – the same qualities found in our handwritten signatures. If my grandsons get to third grade with ne’er a hint of learning handwriting, I’ll just have to step in – Grammy will happily guide their little fingers to slow down, hold a writing instrument correctly, and to later read my words in letters taken down from the attic.
Abella Carroll, Freelance Writer