It used to be that learning cursive was a right of passage for third graders. The forming of script letters was taken very seriously. As the students transitioned from print to character connections, unique styles and traits were revealed. No two students, though taught the same strokes by the teacher and who then repeated those same strokes on pre-designed copied sheets, formed the cursive letters exactly alike.
While recently checking-in for a flight to Johannesburg, a young teen, traveling with his parents, was talking with the attendant at the podium next to me. He was asked to sign his recently received passport. “I only know how to write my first name in cursive,” he sheepishly replied. The father interjected, “His school no longer teaches that…”
The Case for Cursive
In the case of cursive—and more broadly, handwriting in general—there’s plenty of evidence of cognitive and academic benefits. Brain scans reveal neural circuitry lighting up when young children first print letters and then read them. The same effect is not apparent when the letters are typed or traced. Intriguingly, according to reporting in The New York Times, “block printing, cursive, and typing each elicit distinctive neurological patterns,” implying a deep, underlying sensitivity in the brain to even minor changes in the way letters are rendered on the page. When reading and writing, we appear to be hardwired for versatility. (Edutopia)
"I think your cursive writing identifies you as much as your physical features do."
- Virginia Berninger
I felt bad for the slightly embarrassed teen. Can a person sign a legal document in print?
The father also seemed uncomfortable. If he feels like his son is missing out on learning cursive, there are books available to assist. I also enjoy seeing parents teach their own children skills.
Time will tell if this new educational wave is a good or bad thing. I am not informed enough to construct an opinion. There’s a part of me that likes the idea of knowing a secret form of writing not understood by the young. The premise would make an interesting novel. The book could be named Scripted Secrets and include a sixty-something heroine deciphering “ancient” coding from the 1960s. On the other hand, there is also a part of me that is saddened that this “write” of passage no longer exists.