I have discovered-much to my chagrin, that cursive writing seems to be on its last legs. I began to attain a sense of this phenomenon in my second year of University, when I began to take classes with other individuals who engaged in the presently-abused tactic of taking notes by hand, rather than relying upon a laptop. Much to my surprise, I seemed to be the only one who was taking notes with a flowing penmanship reminiscent of da Vinci’s writings (I’m lying-my cursive is unfortunately terribly sloppy, a fact that I bear with shame) (Also-while gathering pictures for this post, I have discovered that da Vinci had a unique way of writing-“mirror writing”. Basically, he wrote from right-left instead of left-right, but I think it still counts). What is true is the total absence of cursive on the pages of my colleagues’ notes. I could not understand how they could even keep up with the professor through the use of printing, as cursive is much quicker and easier, at least in my experience.
Later in my academic career, I was to discover that this reliance upon printing was widespread. When I asked some of my friends about why they printed instead of utilizing cursive, I was informed that the majority of them took a few classes on cursive, were forced to use it for a year or so in school, and as soon as it was optional, reverted back to printing. I do not know if this was a type of mass rebellion against history or teachers or authority, or if it was simply a lack of interest in continuing with something new, but I cannot help but find it peculiar and (although you main scorn me for this)-sad. Yes, I know-finding the disappearance of cursive to be sad may be a little over the top. My post on lamenting the death of the English language is fairly understandable, but this is pushing it I’m sure. Regardless, I cannot help but feel a little put out by the whole thing.
Cursive is an art form (although I readily admit not in the way that I perform it), and I believe that it brings a type of reverence and unique creativity to writing. It also allows for what I think is the real meaning of the phrase “scribbling”. I have infrequently felt myself compelled to simply sit down and write my thoughts to clear my head. However, as my thoughts occur at a fairly rapid pace, my writing often struggles to keep up. Thus, my writing is rendered indecipherable scribbles due to the fast path my pen makes across the page. This, however, is a good thing-I do not desire for my thoughts to be read by anyone in the future unless I specifically intend them to be. Printing, on the other hand, is often slow and plodding. You cannot really print faster, as you have to finish each letter before lifting your pen and continuing on with the next letter.
All that I have said is true, and I believe that it is all in concert to cause my dislike for the disappearing act of cursive. However, perhaps the most significant reason is one that I may be loathe to admit-I think that I may have tendencies toward the luddite movement. Luddites are described (by wikipedia), as “19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817”. Since that time, the term has come to be in common use for an individual who dislikes or opposes the advancement of technology. Here I am, writing this on a computer, but I cannot help but lament about the destruction computers have caused. I believe that computers often stifle creativity, in that they make demands on the writer. Writing must be linear, defined, and restricted. No invention of special characters, and no invention of new words, or that harsh-looking red squiggle will appear.
Apparently computers have already one the battle, however. Cursive writing has been removed from the required curriculum (at least in Ontario where I live), and has been replaced with text-based literacy with an emphases on computer text. This exemplifies the triumph of print over cursive. Why learn how to write with cursive, when you will spend most of your life using computers to submit or formulate any significant piece of textual creation? I recently read an article about a man who was upset because his grandson did not know how to sign his own name-he had never learned cursive. But then, how much longer will signatures be in use? Pin pads appear everywhere, and for those things that need extra security, there is always the readily available option of using a thumbprint.
Shorthand has disappeared with my generation-my parents recall taking a class on it, but I didn’t even know what it was until a volunteer described it to me recently and I discovered a book explaining it in my store. Perhaps cursive will be the next thing to disappear, much in the same way. I may be the only person to think this, but I cannot help but feel that cursive is something to hold onto. It is authentic, genuine, engaging, unique, and-perhaps most importantly, it is creative.
I am interested to hear how many of you utilize cursive writing-do you only print now that you are free from the bonds of teacherly tyranny? (My spell check didn’t like the word “teacherly”). Do you also wish that cursive would survive the test of time? Let me know, share your thoughts.