“I’m very well indeed, thank you!” said Lockhart exuberantly, pulling a rather battered peacock-feather quill from his pocket. “Now, how many autographs would you like? I can do joined-up writing now, you know!”
– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Dear teachers, parents, Department of Education people, and students,
Many little children aren’t going to be learning “joined-up writing” or cursive in the future. What are they going to do if they become famous (or just think they are)? They won’t really be able to autograph anything.
Cursive handwriting is being phased out in US public schools, as you can see here. Already, kids aren’t learning it anymore in my state of Indiana.
Mostly, because some people think it’s “obsolete”. We use technology for so many things that there’s not much point in learning how to use a pen or pencil well. The idea is that typing quickly is more important than writing beautifully.
I think these people kind of have a point. We do use technology for a lot of things today. I write a lot and almost all of that writing is done on the computer. If I had to handwrite my NaNovel, there’s no way I would ever get it done.
But that’s no reason to completely give up cursive writing!
The first reason to keep it is more practical but not as important to me – you’re not always going to be able to type something. You may not always have access to a computer for writing, and in some cases a computer-generated piece of writing (like a thank-you letter) isn’t really appropriate. Anyone can quickly type out a letter and then cut, copy, and paste to “personalize” each thank-you. Except they’re not really personalized. It’s like they’re being mass-manufactured with special embellishments hastily tacked on at the end. When I get a letter from one of my grandparents, I feel special because it takes longer to write cursive, plus you can’t cut, copy, and paste.
Some people might think that the second reason is silly, but it’s very important to me. Cursive is prettier than anything you can type. I know that’s not a very practical reason, but I don’t care. Why does everything in life have to be practical? If my brother ruled the world everything would be – he doesn’t really get the point of things being pretty. Why can’t we have beauty just for the sake of beauty? That’s all that beauty pageants are, and no one seems to object to those. If no one knows cursive, they’ll have to print or scribble whenever they can’t use a computer and it won’t be as pretty as cursive.
So yes, joined-up writing may not be used very often anymore. But cursive looks cool and it’s much more personal. Five emails in Times New Roman are all going to look the same, but five letters written in cursive are all going to look different. Some people say that is a good reason to not teach cursive, because it can be hard to read the writing of someone who learned a slightly different style of cursive than what you did. But those little details are what give handwriting personality. Are we going to get rid of people having different personalities now, too?
There’s a third reason. As I wrote earlier, cursive is hard. If you’ve known cursive for a while, you’re probably scoffing at this. Don’t. Most kids learn cursive at about age nine; that’s still pretty young. For me, it was mostly just a matter of remembering what all the letters looked like, but some letters really confused me. It took me a long time to be able to correctly write a cursive uppercase G – I couldn’t seem to make it look right. It looked like a cursive uppercase A with hair. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I love cursive uppercase Gs now; they look so elegant. They also remind me of how much work I put into mastering them. Learning how to write in cursive might be tricky, but at the end of it kids will be able to say that they learned something that was tricky, instead of giving up.
Finally, to anyone who is still going on about how typing is better than handwriting, check out this article about Steve Jobs. Why do Macs – or any computers at all, really – have such cool fonts? The late computer genius took a calligraphy class in college. Anyone who loves to mess with fonts, and I think that’s most people, should thank handwriting for the influence it had on computers.
What can we do about the disappearing joined-up writing? Learn it anyway. It may not be required in the schools, but why does something have to be required for you to do it? I’ll probably have kids and I’ll probably homeschool them, but if they end up attending a school that doesn’t teach cursive, then I’m teaching it to them anyway. And of course I will if I homeschool them.
And yes, I completely recognize the irony in writing a letter about joined-up writing using a computer.