There was a post featured on Fresh Pressed recently called Is Cursive Handwriting Dead?
There have been other articles stating concern over typing/keyboarding skills being emphasized over penmanship and handwriting skill, besides this one. The mainstream media has written a number of stories about it. This blog article and media articles I have read seem to share something in common, however: there is not enough of a clear distinction whether the worry is over cursive alone, or if it is rather a general fear that machines are completely taking over handwriting skills.
Nitpicky and boring distinctions, I’m sure. I’ll get to why I’m making them. First, though, I have to make some disclaimers: I learned both cursive and calligraphy writing in school. I also abandoned cursive writing when I realized my writing was poor, in favor of block letter manuscript. I keep cursive only for my formal signature, which is a hurried mess. I was also an elementary education major for my undergraduate studies, so I am somewhat familiar with existing methods of teaching cursive.
So, for one thing, I bristle at those who make expectations that everyone should write in cursive. I don’t, and my handwriting is quite legible. But I cannot easily dismiss another assertion: there is a claim that those children who do not learn writing styles such as cursive cannot read them. Although I do not use cursive anymore, I’ve been quite familiarized with it. Maybe that is more true of those who learn by kinesthetic means (learning by doing). It is harder for me to agree with that as an intensely visually oriented person.
So I also get tired of all this Chicken Little reactions. If everyone had always had what they wanted, we’d be teaching by the great bardic oral tradition, books would still be rare, and computers, at best, would probably be specialized, and not for personal use. In short, people seem blissfully unaware that they are repeating fears of ancient Greece and Rome… but now, it is a worry that computers are supplanting books (not books supplanting oral tradition). No one is crying over the loss of everyone knowing how to tell a story, are they?
I remembered some of mer’s thoughts on this, long ago. Enough explaining, on to the picture:
My point is this hand wringing over computers demolishing penmanship skills is generally silly. I give you Jack Yan as an example: he’s a bit of a font and typesetting geek, which is understandable, as he’s a publisher. He points out mistakes in kerning (letter spacing) that results in hilarious misunderstandings and prefers Helvetica to Arial. Anyways, the Font Capture site is still alive (although the domain name is “Your Fonts” now). It is a wonderful way to connect handwriting and typesetting together; clearly now, there is a connection. If anything, as you see, I did acknowledge where my penmanship skills could use some work. Other students are likely to do the same.
One last thought, which I hope will gel my argument. The art world has embraced technology, and computers are used to generate graphics all the time. But artists have not abandoned their paints, pencils or pens. I posted the link to the So You Want My Job: Master Penman earlier because Jake Weidmann is right; penmanship is shifting to a fine art. But I think that simply means that the way we teach penmanship must change. I am tired of cookie-cutter crap solutions and try to stuff pegs that neither fit in round nor square holes. To invoke another discussion that is in danger of becoming trite: the cursive debate does nothing to further the issue raised about schools in the West (North America, at least). I think it illustrates lazy, stodgy, and needlessly conformist thinking. But, I am biased, and why I am so biased, and frustrated– for my daughter’s sake– is a subject of a different post.