Cursive Writing Dies Making Old Letters Suspect to Having Been Created By Grandmothers with Jobs in Scriptoriums

Posted on July 18, 2011


There has been a slow, progressive march toward the end of teaching of cursive writing.  In the public school of my youth I was taught by a master of one of the “systems” to write in the position right-handed people use only in reverse.  I do not contort my wrist to write upside down as many do.

Old systems usually die when practitioners of it give it up.  In my day in the 50s and 60s, upper class and boarding school girls developed a kind of rounded, connected print style.  It continues today.  But you had to know cursive to carry it out.  The unwashed who did not have entre to this system of writing fell by the wayside and wrote illegibly.

SamHenry practiced cursive and boarding school script.  Below is an example of  her inability to write at her age without ruled paper.

West Virginia [article here] and Indiana School [article here] systems have pretty much determined that since learning is done these days by computer that cursive writing is no longer needed.  All of this was sanctified by an article about National Handwriting Day in the New York Times.  In fact, any kind of writing instruction seems to be missing.

OK, so when the lights go out in America and we  have to communicate without wired and wireless devices,  just what do you think we will do? And what of creative writers and people in other disciplines who cannot “think” with a computer or even with an old typewriter?  And journal writing – who wants inner thoughts saved in a cloud on the internet or even on a computer?  Wikileaks and hackers would love it.  SamHenry would be mortified.

Sadly, cursive writing has now floated into the realm of the unintelligible just as surely as an old English script.  It will live only as a decorative design in the occasional assemblage of items on some artist’s canvas or on a “T” shirt.  It will be an oddity and those who know about it will be deemed odd.

Here’s to old souls like me who need to cling to some of what defined our time.  Perhaps if we explain what these things meant when they go out, they will at least be respected by future historians.  This generation has Harry Potter.  But Hogwart’s was truly old school and I’ll just bet cursive was taught there.  Now there’s a hook to generate interest.  Imagine sitting down with your grandchildren and teaching them cursive writing as something that is an art like any other.  That may stem the tide.

Such are the secrets of grandmothers who are the behind-the-scenes influences on a child’s life when they are fortunate enough to have one.  Mine taught cursive writing before she went to nursing school.  I loved to watch her make those large, round loops for practice.  I learned a bit from her.  And boys in my time wrote cursive, too.  My father got an award for his penmanship in his day.  Amen.

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