January 9, 2014 - No Comments!

The death of an art form?

Cursive_blog[1]

The hard truth of the matter is that everything we produce in the tech world starts as a sketch that gets scribbled with notes before anything is created on the computer. This process leads to better work, getting the easy answers out of the way, and making room for innovation.

2nd Grade, 1990, Ms. Toussaint started the school year by introducing us to penmanship workbooks with a noticeable excitement in her voice. The students reacted with the same level of enthusiasm and prepped their pencils for hours upon hours of repetition. She lined the boards perfectly everyday with three lines, over and over. Top line solid, middle line dashed, solid bottom line. We could hardly hold back the elation of getting to write on the board.

From the point of learning every curve and glorious attribute of all 26 letters, I focused hard on making sure every ascender and descender was formed correctly, teaching myself the alternate versions of each letter. Now, as a graphic designer, I’m privileged to work with typography and hand lettering every day.

This past fall, the Common Core State Standards for English made a lamentable move. Forty-five states originally adopted the new standards that no longer require cursive be taught in schools. Two states, California and Massachusetts, have already reinstated handwriting back into the curriculum, and five additional states are in the midst of doing so. Some lawmakers claim cursive is too time consuming for teachers and others claim there is no real benefit to learning cursive—as opposed to keyboard skills—when it comes to setting students up for their future. But I wonder: can’t we teach both?

Nowadays, children are immersed in devices from birth. One has to feel that, no matter what, children will develop the computer skills they need to navigate today’s world. For an example, I need to look no further than my niece, who teaches me something new about my tablet device every time I see her. She’s three. The problem is she’d rather have an iPad in her hand than a pen.

I find cursive to be a thought-provoking, strategic, and sophisticated art form. Few other things offer young children the chance to be simultaneously structured and creative. Furthermore, cursive being negated from schools brings me concern over the human aspect of communication as a whole. The jubilance of receiving a handwritten letter is only brought about if you can read what the letter says. What use are notes in a notebook if you yourself can’t decipher them?

The act of writing in cursive goes beyond the simple action of putting words on page. Linden Bateman, a state representative from Idaho and avid supporter of reinstating cursive into curriculums, had this to say about the matter:

"Modern research indicates that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they keyboard. We're not thinking this through. It's beyond belief to me that states have allowed cursive to slip from the standards."

What I take from this is that we’re actively asking our children to disengage certain parts of their brain—creative parts—in favor of learning how to type faster. The world is not as rigid and finite as a keyboard. Things are in a constant flux, and the people we consider to be ‘smart’ have the ability to find ways to adapt and overcome. That takes ingenuity, gumption, and, you guessed it—creativity.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to write that down.

Further reading:
New York Times: “Cursive Benefits Go Beyond Writing”
The Atlantic: “Don’t Write Off Cursive”
Huffington Post: Complete coverage of the Common Core

Published by: Melissa Diperi in Blog