July 31, 2013

Cursive, A Dying Art?

I have been hearing that schools are no longer teaching cursive or script or joined-up writing, and I think it’s a shame. When you think about beautiful handwriting, you usually don’t think about someone’s printing skill, you think of their script, flowing and elegant.

As I was searching the archives at work today for an obscure physician who joined our membership in 1858, I saw so many gorgeous examples of old scripts.

There are thousands of cards in our card catalogue, many of them hand-written.

I found old ledger books, beginning with our founding in 1799, where even the simplest of words are beautifully written.

Although the handwriting isn’t great, it was fun to come across an original copy of the nomination of one of my ancestors to be President of the organization where I now work. This would have been in the 1830’s or so.

These lists of our members from the early 1820’s are so beautifully written. All done by hand, with very few mistakes.

An interesting letter reporting someone practicing medicine without a license in 1818.

I still take pride in the fact that I have good handwriting, especially my cursive. Although I find myself writing less and less, I think it’s important to know how to write in print and cursive. Do you?

32 comments:

  1. Yes, I do think handwriting and good handwriting is worthwhile. I used to pride myself on my style - we were taught the skills at school - but alas time has allowed for a more "flowing" style, and worsens because I tend to type much more than I write. I used to promise myself that I would write in a notebook to keep my hand in, so to speak, but alas, I never followed through. When my mother was alive we used to write to each other twice or more a week, but that stopped more than 13 years ago, and I miss it, and her replies too! (However, I have kept all her letters and I re-read them sometimes, and they are as fresh as the day I opened them, and are a wonderful reminder of that habit, and of her). Sadly these written records with anyone have now largely disappeared.

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    1. Since I retain information best by writing notes, I still keep notebooks filled with notations from meetings, etc. I alternate between print, script and a hybrid of the two.

      Letter writing is a lost art.

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  2. I never get tired of this...I Modge Podged a dressing room with old letters and it looked fabulous. I, like you, am glad I still remember those handwriting classes. My script is going downhill with my age so now I use a pen with the cursive point and I can still get away with it. Love...

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    1. These old letters are so beautiful. I know there are loads more that are still waiting for me to find them. And I love the dressing room idea!

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  3. I still scribble and even on my ipad i use paper53 and so i still scribble there as well.
    what are people going to do when the lights are out and in the future there are no more sustainable forms of energy? i think it is so sad that they are phasing it out!

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    1. I love notebooks, so still use them. I haven't gotten on the iPad track yet, but can't think that it would be the same as a book.

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  4. These are lovely examples of an everyday skill that has all but disappeared.

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  5. How do you keep from falling down the rabbit hole at work? I would lose days immersed in those documents.

    I learned architectural block printing in college for my design degree and have difficulty writing any other way. My "cursive" is a chicken scratch of loops and block printing - most unreadable.

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    1. It could be such a rabbit hole! But I try to limit my excursions to Friday afternoons, unless I am searching for something special.

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    2. I write pretty much the same way! Either all block caps due to my design background and profession (but even that is not as good as people trained in it before computers took over) and the rest is a mix of fairly unreadable scribble. It's embarrasing that my husband's hand is much better than mine!

      I think about cursive now and again, and that I should make and effort to improve. I love the look of it.

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  6. from The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, June 13, 2013:

    This year, North Carolina implemented the common-core state standards, a set of math and English goals agreed upon by 45 states. The standards require students be proficient in keyboarding by fourth grade but do not require cursive instruction, a change from the long tradition of North Carolina and many other states. The Wall Street Journal featured North Carolina in a page one story on Jan. 31 about the decline of cursive instruction and usage. Legislators introduced the bill on Feb. 21.

    Many educators say teaching cursive uses instruction time that could go to more relevant topics, given the scarcity of handwriting in a digital age. But the Back to Basics sponsors say writing connected cursive letters improves motor skills and brain development. North Carolina joins a handful of other states like Georgia and California that added cursive instruction in addition to their common-core state standards.

    Hugs to Connor.

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    1. I agree about the motor skills and brain development. There's some information that says children with learning disabilities understand language and spelling better if it's cursive and especially if they're doing the writing. Since it's fluid, they're not stopping after every letter.

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    2. Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

      Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

      Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

      Cursive's cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

      What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

      All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

      Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


      SOURCES:

      Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

      /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

      /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
      JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf


      Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

      OTHER:
      Background on our handwriting, past and present:


      A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
      http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g

      TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
      http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To


      [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]


      Yours for better letters,




      Kate Gladstone
      Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
      and the World Handwriting Contest
      http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

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  7. Dear Aunt Meg:

    Ah, you've hit upon one of the fallouts from the testing, testing, testing that so many states are requiring of their students now. With the focus on testing, much curriculum is driven solely by whatever the test dictates, other subjects be damned.

    We live in a sad nation when the arts, physical education, and writing (including cursive) are scrapped, not only for testing reasons, but also for budgetary ones due to the horrid recession.

    -- Miss M.A.

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  8. It would be a sad day to watch a generation brought up without the knowledge and skill to write in cursive, and, at the very least, the ability to print. These (in my opinion) go hand in hand with being able to read and speak and spell!

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    1. If they can't write cursive, will they be able to read it?

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  9. Yes, I've been saddened by the failure to teach handwriting in many schools. Having gone to a convent school where handwriting was emphasized throughout those 12 (seemingly) endless years.... today, I receive huge numbers of comments regarding my handwriting: either good or bad as in "I can't read this......" Hopefully educators will come to their senses and realize that writing is a skill that translates into many other areas of life. Maybe a "new style" of cursive similar to that taught in Europe??
    Great topic.
    Mary

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    1. We learned the Palmer method of writing and had to practice for ages to get it right!

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  10. Well the 21st century student can set him or herself apart from the masses. Leaning cursive takes practice and one can easily teach themselves. I am sure the Home schooled child will have a leg up on the products of a public school system in any of the 50 states if handwriting is taught and practiced. Are we to assume in the USA, Asian children of college educated parents studying for a PHd have not learned to write their native language.? At a yard sale I found a box of Chinese flash cards , yes I bought them both. The pictures were colorful! If children can't read cursive today, as adults will they be able to read The Declaration of Independence tomorrow? Now the yammerin of school vouchers make sense, if tax dollars are funneled into a losing proposition a charter school that is a sham that certainly is not good but paying for an education at a Catholic school where there are people dedicated to classroom instruction well maybe that is a good thing. Also what is the affect of texting on spelling? Or speaking on the phone, do people actually engage in civilized conversations on the phone anymore? These activities which require manners do reflect one's breeding.

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  11. Those manuscripts are beautiful, written with a fountain pen -- an instrument most of us do not use any more. My science teacher daughter says the lack of cursive skills impacts the fine motor skills children need to do dissection in class. So sad to see children who do not even know how to hold scissors. The people who lobbied to remove cursive didn't realize all the ramifications.

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    1. I love fountain pens and use the disposable Pilot Varsity ones that come in black, blue and purple.

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  12. Check out Kitty Burns Florey's Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. She wrote my favorite book on sentence diagramming (yes, I have a favorite book on sentence diagramming), Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog.

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    1. I will have to look for Script & Scribble!

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  13. Anything written, old letters etc. are an obsession of mine + I valve the cursive especially with a fountain pin + I too adore the Pilot Varsity + love journal writing. grand post. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  14. It seems to be a dying art, such a shame. There's nothing like putting pen to paper and writing out an actual note card or invitation on good stationery in one's own handwriting. An email from a friend is always nice, but it's simply not the same thing.

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  15. I agree, it is beautiful and an art that should be preserved. I hope to continue to write hand written letters since that seems to be a thing of the past. Your images are gorgeous and I so appreciate the penmanship.
    xo Nancy

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  16. What beautiful writing you uncovered. When I graduated from college and applied for my first job in banking, my father told me to include a sample of my penmanship. He felt that my handwriting was indicative of my attention to detail and would make a good impression. I was hired for the job, although I've never given the handwriting sample or my father the credit. I feel strongly that children should be taught cursive writing (as well as multiplication tables and geometry), but it becomes more difficult to argue the point, considering that we can probably get along without that skill. But should we abandon printing too since devices are so readily available to communicate the written word? If children can be taught to understand forms of writing without producing it, why bother with printing or writing? Obviously, I'm carrying an argument to an extreme to make a point. Interestingly, I just heard that the Russian intelligence community is once again using typewriters so they don't have to worry about hackers. Perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way for cursive writing, too. I hope you are enjoying your new job, Meg.

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  17. Apart from the aesthetics angle, I'm totally convinced that ink-on-paper writing has another advantage over typed writing, one no one that even talks about: that is, that writing slows down your brain--no one can write at 60 words a minute or more--and therefore allows your brain adequate time to form complete thoughts as a whole before they ever hit the paper, not as a bunch of connect-the-dots words that invariably need to be shuffled around and re-done after-the-fact.

    Sure, typing on some sort of electronic gizmo--which I'm doing right now--goes faster, but after I've gone back and corrected all the typos and fixed my initial clumsy phrasing, whatever time-advantage typing provides has pretty much been shot to hell, anyway. But it's not just that. In the process of fixing all those typos and substituting better words for hastily-chosen ones, the natural flow of the original text has often becomes halting & disjointed, and the thought muddy. So then I have to back and fix that. On the other hand, when I write longhand, none of that is necessary: I get it right the first time.

    When I go back and look at the original handwritten text of blog posts that I later transcribed into the computer, there are no strikeouts,and the smooth flow of the published result hardly varies at all from the longhand version, whereas those typed-out posts that I abandoned partway through are all but indecipherable--verbal rubble. Scrolling back through my own blog's posts, I can tell instantly which started out as ink-on-paper and which started as pixels on a screen. This comment is clearly one of the latter.

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  18. There really is something so heart warming and inspiring about a hand written (especially done so in beautiful cursive) note. Whatever the message, it comes across so much more thoughtful and sincere. Perhaps, even more introspective in nature. Fabulous post!

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  19. I feel the faithful same way! My IPAD comes everywhere with me. I recently had to cover it as I would be completely stuck if I lost it or if it was stolen.
    The one I have and many I have looked at are quite complex and not enormous if you wanna take a fast pic.
    iPad Repair London

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