Recently there has been a lot of debate over the teaching of cursive handwriting in American schools. Maybe it has something to do with my love, not just of writing, but of history that makes me Pro-Cursive.
Every now and then I sift through the few old letters I have managed to save written by my grandmother’s. I am struck each time with the notion that the person who wrote those words took time out of their busy day to stop, sit down and write to me because I was important in their lives. It made me feel special. Every now and then we read in the news how new, historic documents have surfaced after many long, forgotten years. Quite often these are letters from war veterans to their families and in most cases these snippets of history are written in cursive. As a lover of history, I am filled with dread that one day these documents and their importance will lose all meaning. Only those that hold degrees in cursive writing will be able to translate the obscure swirls, loops and humps of this cryptic form of writing. So much will be lost then.
What of the documents we already have carefully preserved in museums and library archives? What will become of them? They may be saved for posterity but what of their physical link to our nation’s past? When the vaults are opened and the common man is permitted a glimpse of these relics, will he be able to connect to that document merely by reading it in the very handwriting of the person who so carefully crafted it? What leaves a more lasting impression, reading the Gettysburg Address on a computer screen or standing before the very item knowing its history and reading its words for yourself? Will there be any sense of awe, purpose and pride gained when we have put ourselves at such a distance from those things that matter to our liberties? Or will these documents hold onto our hearts as much as an image in a book of Egyptian hieroglyphics we cannot begin to understand?
To those school children of the distant future deprived of an understanding of cursive writing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and original Bill of Rights may as well be in cuneiform and will feel just as distant to them as such. For the non-history buffs, imagine being given the opportunity to lay your eyes on the scientific formulas of Newton or Einstein not just in a book or on a cold monitor, but right there in front of you. What a thrill it would be to be permitted to hold the very quill of Archimedes or the ink pen which Beethoven used to write his 9th Symphony and not just look at these items but understand their meaning, to be able to read those special languages of scientific notation, mathematics and music. Cursive holds that power over me, that love, that connection to those before me.
It is said that those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it. If the generations to come are intentionally allowed to forget a form of written communication, what affect will that have on the collective memory of our nation? How much will be forgotten simply because we were too busy to teach them the simple art of cursive and there is no one around anymore who can read it. Is this a risk we really want to take? I believe it’s not. Whenever that day may come that I am a grandmother, I will take it upon myself to teach my grandchildren and all their friends this craft. Too many people depend exclusively on the typed word, restricting their research and experience base to that leaves out so much of the world.
There are those that will argue cursive is out-dated, old-fashioned and simply too slow a method of communication. To which I reply, “What’s the rush?” We humans have rushed ourselves far too long. We seem to think we must constantly be ten steps ahead of the next guy and that somehow we are superior because our technology is more advanced than someone else’s. Sure, we can wipe out life on this planet in the blink of an eye if so inclined. That hardly makes us better, just more dangerous and maybe just a little bit more insane than the other living things we share this earth with. Faster is not always better.
I think we need to slow down, not speed up. We need to communicate better not faster. How about instead of stopping to smell the roses, we let ourselves stop and get a cup of tea or coffee, a pad of paper and a pen and write something down in the slow, graceful, easy curves of cursive for the future generations to remember us by.