Cursive Schmursive: If It’s Legible, Who Cares?

If I were looking for a new job — I’m not, you know, but if I was — there’s a new skill I can add to my resume: Handwriting Translator.

Reason being, throughout the day students approach my desk and show me a yellow slip of paper. They ask in meek tone, one befitting Oliver Twist: “Please, ma’am, I don’t know what this says.”

Well, maybe not that Oliver Twistish. But you get my point.

The yellow slip is our school’s “student request pass”. The student’s name will be there, usually written clearly, we hope written clearly, the rest… well, the rest is a crapshoot. It might be written clearly. It might be like a doctor’s scribbling.

I do my best to decipher the note. Usually it’s from our Attendance department, sometimes the Nurse’s office. Back in my greenhorn days, I used to follow up with a polite email, suggesting the scribbler fill out the passes more carefully or give up cursive altogether. After all, most of our kids don’t read cursive.

I no longer do that. Reason being, it usually triggers a rant:

How come they don’t teach cursive anymore?!

Why in my day…

Everyone is so lazy nowadays!

Cursive handwriting is the hallmark of civilized society!

I usually enjoy seeing people on their high horse. It can be quite entertaining and worthy of a blog post or two. But after the fourth or fifth time around the track, even I grow tired of their raging.

Pity they don’t feel the same.

In any case, I’ve come to realize that people of a certain age, the age being somewhere on the far side of 40, tend to feel strongly about this issue.

Well, at least women do. I’ve not witnessed any men going off the deep end regarding cursive. Maybe they do. I’ve not seen it.

In any case, I’ve noticed the arguments for returning cursive to the curriculum range from the ridiculous:

“You’re more creative when you use cursive writing instead of a keyboard”

(Oh, if only Hemingway, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, et. al., not insisted on using their typewriters! How much greater their works might have been!)

To the nostalgic:

“Remember those lined workbooks with the letters to trace? I loved those!”

I didn’t. As much as I tried to replicate the letters and follow their lines, my clumsy little hand would not cooperate.

And having to make such BIG letters too. The capitals absolutely insisted on touching both top and bottom lines. Not to be undone, several of the lower case demanded it too.

Cheeky little devils that they were.

Cursive alphabet

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. McCullough, was not a patient woman. She rarely approved of my feeble attempts.

Ms. McCullough and me

It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact several letters are battling identity issues.

The letter A, regretting her cross line and open bottom, caring little she represents my favorite article of apparel (A-line skirt), chucks it all away to look like an abnormal apple:

Cursive A

So too is S, no longer content with his smooth, sloping shape, chooses instead to shroud his silhouette.

Secretive little sneak:

Cursive S

G, ever the garrulous gent, decides he can’t give ground. He follows S’s guide and makes a point of it:

Cursive G

And what are we to make of Q? It’s shameless, really. Q, in her printed state, is round with a little tail; the cousin of O with a quirky flair.

Yet in script, she opts for something different, an queer and querulous affair:

Cursive Q

Yet none of that comes close to Z, that zany zealot who zigzags his way in print.

For cursive… well, at first he seems to copy Q. He zips onto the page, zeroes in toward the bottom and… what’s this? He zooms below the line, where he has no business being!

Cursive Z

Breaking all zoning laws!

You know what I think? I think Q and Z got together and hatched this devious plot!

“Why won’t they use us more in their writing?” Q queried. “I say we make them quiver and quake, every time they pick up their quill!”

“Zounds, Q, that’s zelicious!” And with that, Z zapped and zipped his shape in a most zesty fashion.

Q looked at him quizzically, but remained quiet.

For most of my early schooling, I disliked my handwriting. No, more than disliked. I actively despised my cursive skills. No matter how I tried, Mrs. McCullough’s elegant swoops and flourishes would never be mine.

Then sometime in high school, I was looking through old records and came across Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

Ignoring the cheesy mustache, I latched onto the words at the top.

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Look at those S’s folks! Sure, Z still gets down and dirty, but capital S remains true to form!

Only then did it occur to me how adults (as they do in so many things) throw out the rules and do what they want. I decided right then and there, Mrs. McCullough be damned, I’d write however I wanted.

Which is how I finally embraced my own version of handwriting (more like smushed together printing) and never looked back.

 

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All this is a long way of saying, I don’t think it’s a big deal students aren’t being taught cursive. Maybe you disagree with me. If you’re anything like the women I work with, I know you do.

I still say it’s not a big deal. If our youth want to learn cursive, they’ll figure it out just like my kids did. On their own, with no Mrs. McCullough breathing down their neck. There’s no age limit to acquiring it, and there are plenty of sites offering free lessons.

And of course, they can always make up their own rules.

As for the argument that it teaches them fine motor skills and helps brain development, art lessons and playing a musical instrument do that too. And I’d argue do a much better job of it.

Now as for students not being taught how to properly diagram a sentence?

My God people! When will the madness end?!

Diagram