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Cursive writing: an artistic skill or a bridge across the generation gap?

 

I am a proponent of cursive writing. Not only am I an ardent wordsmith, but I have spent hundreds of hours perfecting my handwriting style. As a third-grader, I was spellbound by the flourish of white letters on green alphabet cards held by clothespins on a string of wire over the chalkboard. I practiced for hours to make the most perfect letters possible. I guess part of that enthusiasm was due to my artistic bent, but these days I think of my handwriting as an expression of my persona.

While I struggled with mathematics, I soared to new heights in penmanship. A fat pencil, sharpened by my grandfather’s pocket knife and a tablet of newsprint-quality paper with character spacer lines was my Christmas, birthday and dream-world all rolled into one. Cursive writing is, to me, a way to creatively draw the words I love.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core Academic Standards in 2010. The 2011-12 curriculum eliminated cursive writing as a required standard in our schools. My youngest grandson was eight years old at that time. He was about to enter third grade – the level where he would previously have been taught cursive writing. He was unperturbed by the elimination of this class, but I was incensed.

The lack of this beautiful skill is far more than a preference. I believe it is as essential as learning to read. In fact, the two skills should go hand-in-hand. For example, when I left handwritten instructions for a teen who was pet sitting for me, he looked at my instructions, written in cursive, as though they were written in a foreign language. He somewhat sheepishly asked if I could type the instructions on the computer and print them out. He couldn’t read cursive writing.

When I write a thoughtful sentiment inside a birthday card or holiday card, my grandkids ask me to read it to them. They can’t read cursive writing.

Recently, I was told by a publicist that when I sign one of my children’s books at an event, I should print my name and any inscription, rather than writing it in long-hand. I agreed to print the personalized line, but I refused to print my signature. I firmly believe that when you sign your name, it must be written in cursive. Your signature is as unique as your fingerprint. Criminologists have used handwriting as a tool to solve cases. Handwriting is a tool for authenticating documents, such as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Scientific studies substantiate the theory that cursive writing is beneficial to the brain. Writing in script uses both the left and right hemisphere of the brain. It aids in reading comprehension and brain development.

Lastly, cursive writing is a bridge that could span the ever-widening generation gap. The thoughts, letters, and journals penned by grandparents could someday mean the world to a young adult beginning to navigate life and searching for answers in the wisdom of their ancestors. A dust-covered diary discovered in the attic could one day become a treasure to future generations, but will they be able to read it?

 

Anne Carmichael is a lifestyle columnist who contributes monthly to the Jessamine Journal.