Saturday, 16 July 2011

How Necessary is Cursive Writing?

The Express has reported that the US state of Indiana's Department of Education is advising its schools that pupils from the age of eight will no longer be obliged to be taught cursive writing.

Lordy, lord! You'd think they were inviting Hannibal Lector into schools to take charge of cookery classes. This decision is stealing childrens' individuality, they assert; as though text-communicating youngsters are all clone zombies.

One Midwest state opts to drop handwriting from its curriculum and everyone assumes it'll happen here next week. Had the state in question been California there might have been more cause for concern.

The idea that what happens in America today visits us some time in the future isn't completely true either. For instance, they have the death penalty, we don't; they are a republic, we aren't; they drive on the right, we on the left; their petrol is relatively cheap, ours is expensive; creationism is widespread across US Schools, it hardly registers here.

Newspapers deliver news. News is information passed down to us by third parties, sometimes with a self-interest, concerning events happening, usually, outside of our immediate range of experience. Because something is printed in a newspaper it doesn't automatically become a universal truth; these stories don't have some kind of divine right that gives them prophesy status.   

Going beyond the Express story it transpires that it is cursive script which is being dropped, not handwriting per se. Given the demise of the hand written letter, whether personal or official; given the idiosyncratic nature of some people's cursive hand, maybe this form of communication is something that could be taught as a specialist subject.

The only time I use cursive handwriting today is when I take notes, and that's only because I'm not using my laptop or notebook - oh, and my signature. Because we were forced to do all our handwriting cursively at school, this became the dominant form. For note-taking, the printed form of handwriting, especially in my case, would be more decipherable than the scrawl I produce when taking notes at meetings; yet, I am naturally inclined towards the cursive.

Apart from note-taking at meetings most other handwriting I do involves form filling; for which you're instructed to use block lettering (as this form of writing is, generally, more readable than a scrawled cursive hand).

So, worry not about the Express' piece of alarm raising. The truth is they're not overly convinced themselves, otherwise the headline wouldn't have read: 'The Writing's On The Wall'; no, it would have read: 'There's No Writing On The Wall!'

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