Thursday, March 27, 2014
By: Marilyn Keller
I had lunch this week with a friend who is an archivist. As we progressed through our getting reacquainted chatter, she mentioned how disappointed she was with an intern she had recently hired. “What are your concerns?” I asked. “She can’t read,” my friend stated. “She’s a junior in college. How is it possible she can’t read?” I questioned. “It’s not that she can’t read at all,” my friend explained, “but she can’t read cursive writing, a rather critical skill when working with historical documents.”
I did a little research on this topic and learned that while the instruction of cursive handwriting has been declining for years, the trend turned official with the first offering of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2010. The CCSSI aimed to standardize math and language arts requirements across the country and omitted any mention of cursive writing. 2012 test scores showed 75% of American high school seniors lacked basic writing skills, including the ability to form a sentence, paragraph, or essay that was articulate and grammatically correct. As of 2013, 45 states have elected to implement the Common Core standard, so the demise of cursive appears to be eminent. Maybe I’m romanticizing this form of handwriting, but I think the lack of such ability will continue to have a negative impact on those growing up in a keyboard culture.
For me, learning cursive was a rite of passage. An art which stated, I was becoming an adult. I never had beautiful handwriting, at least the nuns didn’t think so, but practicing my penmanship led to my love of writing. As I moved my fountain pen across the lined paper, my writing became my voice. I wanted to read more to gain the knowledge to write more. My vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure all improved. Today, I primarily use a computer when writing, but am often inspired by looking back at my handwritten journals.
In business, my clients often mentioned how much they appreciated the handwritten thank you notes I sent. They were rare and made them feel special. In my personal life, I love receiving handwritten mail. Even before I open the envelope, the handwriting announces the author and I eagerly anticipate the message.
My relationship with my deceased mother was not strong, but when I left home at age 17, she gave me four pieces of pink stationery on which she had written my favorite recipes. To this day, I cherish those papers, especially the recipe where she forgot to include all of the ingredients.
My husband knows how much I love the written word and over our 12 year relationship, I have filled a large box with his many handwritten cards and letters.
A person’s handwriting is their signature. A part of them that is unique. I understand the importance and necessity of keyboard instruction, but see much value in at least introducing today’s students to the art of cursive writing; the art of writing.