Saturday, September 17, 2022

A Faustian opinion on the demise of Cursive writing.

   I just finished reading several pieces from the October edition of "The Atlantic", and one article that struck me as profoundly eye opening was titled "Cursive is History." It is written by a former Harvard University President and current Atlantic contributor Drew Gilpin Faust. 

     Her piece starts out noting that in teaching an undergraduate seminar, she was stunned to learn about two thirds of her class could not read cursive writing. In her discussions with her class on the absence of handwriting in their lives, she admits to feeling she had become a historical artifact, categorizing herself as a "Rip Van Winkle" confronting a transformed world.

     Faust gives a detailed history of how cursive was phased out after the new Common Core standards were put in place in 2010, and describes how the proliferation of laptops and tablets and lessons in what is called keyboarding replaced Cursive writing. Some states have passed laws to restore cursive handwriting to the curriculum, but Faust believes that despite the effort, the decline of Cursive writing is inevitable.

     Faust gives a thorough History lesson, detailing how cursive writing evolved over the past three centuries in America, pointing out how it helped in the spread of education in the 19th century, where by 1860, 90 percent of the White population could both read and write. She points out how penmanship could give a reader a look into a writer's very soul, and how a signature became accepted as a unique representation of individuals of any economic standing. 

     Then Faust notes how the invention of the Typewriter brought about the first observations that handwriting would eventually become obsolescent, quoting LOOK magazine in 1956 pronouncing cursive writing as "out-of-date." Faust then relates several instances of her interactions with her students concerning their inability to read cursive. Faust learned that when the students were forced to write grocery lists or thank you notes, they mostly did so on laptops and phones, and only wrote in block letters on paper as a last resort. One student even admitted to her that he had to ask his parents to read and translate notes from his grandparents. It led Faust to wonder if the students ever read or understood the many notes and remarks on their submitted papers that their instructors had returned.

      Personally, I find that admission of asking the parents to translate as an indictment of our society, and I see it as another example of how we as a society have become more and more empathically disconnected from one another.  A handwritten letter or note is something that came directly from another person, and it was likely composed with some emotions of a sort attached. There was no cold machine involved sending an email that has no heart attached to it, unless you count emojis, and I don't. 

      I believe Cursive writing, the way we create our words in individual styles, helps define each of us as individuals. It allows a peak into our individual soul that communicating electronically tends to mute, and in many cases, distort. Context is hard to convey on a laptop or tablet, but in cursive, it can be seen when it is sought. 

      Yes, I do see the irony in my writing this blog post on a laptop and posting it for all to read, and that it may seem somewhat cold and critical. In that case, I would urge you to go out to Barnes and Noble or any available news stand and get a copy of the October 2022 Atlantic, turn to page 74, and read it yourself. It will make you think. and that is always a good thing.

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