Friday, March 16, 2012

The Lost Art - Lena Rivkin

I am staggered by the trend of eliminating cursive writing as a required course in our nation's public schools.  We should be teaching our children more not less. While much has been rightly and passionately written above regarding the statistics and science of what cursive writing contributes to educating a well rounded adult, I feel compelled to contribute from my own perspective. 
If we care more about short cuts than teaching cursive writing, the loss of individual intimacy in regards to letter writing will be profound. Cursive writing involves the integration of the body, both hemispheres of the brain as well as building the connective tissue between the letter writer and the letter reader. Because we know there are serious drawbacks in brain development that can occur when cursive writing is not implemented, it's horrifying to imagine schools no longer willing to improve young minds in their foolhardy pursuit of ways to 'shortcut' education. How can a country fully and competitively educate a child without educating all of the child?
To me, the severity of the loss is the loss of human contact--contact of the hand to the pen, and the pen to the paper. Simply printing letters does not promote the art of writing in the way that cursive writing not only connects each letter to each other, but also serves to connect the emotional thoughts the writer is attempting to convey. 
As I am an artist as well as a graphologist, I always make personal cards for friends and family. The act of making the card and cursively writing a personal message to each person connects me to them, and them to me in a way that transcends what an email or text or store bought greeting card can do. While the immediacy of a text or instant message is tantalizing in the time that it saves, why is it that no one seems to have any extra time?  
The instant gratification of messaging from PDA to smartphone is not a technological advance I can personally retreat from. I compensate for that convenience by reaching out to those near and dear to me via pen, paper, ink and the connecting script of the D'Nealian method that I loved learning back in the third grade of my public school in Studio City, California. When you write in cursive, you cannot multitask. The mere act of cursive writing forces you to be in the moment with your thoughts... and imagine what a different world this would be if we communicated with thought and intent, as opposed to shortcuts and abbreviations.
To write and/or receive a hand-written letter is a gift in itself. To eliminate cursive writing as an educational tool that has merely fallen by the wayside is a complete disgrace--as it only furthers the divide of detachment from human to human. Short cuts in education never serve the student, only the administration looking to save money. If we truly are to remain a global leader in education, creativity and innovation, we must fully contribute to the complete and integrated growth of our children, which includes lost languages, lost art and hopefully not the art of cursive writing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Edda Manley on Printing

I recently gave a day long workshop on analyzing printing.  When I first began studying handwriting over twenty years ago and a group of people gave samples of handwriting, usually all but one or two samples were in cursive writing. The two or so that printed I would ask if they worked in a technical field such as Engineering, Architecture or Mechanics. If they didn’t work in any of those fields I would ask if they were criticized for their cursive writing when they were learning to write in cursive. Usually the response was affirmative. In those days there were also lots and lots of stories about strict nuns who went to extreme measures to try to motivate the young children to write neatly. A yardstick rapped over the knuckles was often a common story. So, the first opportunity these people had to go back to printing they gladly took it.

Today, if I ask a group of people under the age of twenty for samples of handwriting, there might be one or two students who write in cursive, the rest print. I would ask those who used cursive if they went to private school or if they had parents who made sure they learned how to write in cursive. The answer was usually Yes.

From my experience in looking at handwriting for over twenty years I believe that we always have and will always continue to have some people who gravitate more to the technical professions and others who prefer to work in the people professions. There seems to be quite a strong desire to go into one or the other areas. It also means they do not like to do the opposite tasks very much. 

Here are two examples I’ve experienced.  A few years ago, a Human Resources Professional told me that in his company there were many technical professionals such as Engineers, Mechanical Design people and the like. He never had performance problems with these people.  All were conscientious, hard working and dedicated employees. What he did have on a very regular basis however were “people problems.” Usually, it would be a female coming into the HR office in tears over an issue that the technical people didn’t even know they had caused or how to prevent from happening. Dealing with people was a huge difficulty for the technical people.

A few years ago I was talking to a relative who was a career Registered Nurse. This profession was her passion and her life.  She knew she was a skilled and experienced professional. At this time the hospital where she worked was bringing in computers to handle patient records. Now, at 60 years old she was going to have to spend considerable time learning to type and use this new electronic technology. This is not what she had signed up to do. She was so frustrated and upset over the whole situation that she was looking into retiring early. We sometimes see similar situations with teachers where the parents raise funds to ensure that each classroom has its own “Smartboard.” Some teachers who are better in the electronic technologies gravitate to it and use it extensively, while others have a very expensive dust collector in their class because they are creative enough to find other fun activities to engage the children in.

We had our highest literacy rates in North America in the years after WWII when both printing and cursive was thoroughly taught. At the end of the recent Summit meeting in DC it was agreed that students should be taught both so that they have the possibility of choosing which writing style they prefer to use. I think we’ll find in the end that some will continue to mainly print and others will choose to write in cursive.  With children now only being taught printing there is no choice and I believe this can create difficulties for them.