There’s quite a bit of controversy swirling around these days about whether cursive writing should be taught in public schools or abolished in favor of keyboarding.
Those I have interviewed feel strongly that cursive writing should be a requirement in today’s public schools. Since I failed to interview any younger people, I’m inclined to believe that their viewpoints would be quite different from those of my peers.
Juanita Russaw, retired Oakland School District teacher who lives in Cordelia, is a longtime advocate for cursive writing in the public schools. She feels so strongly about the subject that she put together a little booklet titled, “Cursive Penmanship Lessons.” She sent me a copy and even with as much cursive writing as I do on a daily basis, I could see that I could use some help, as can most of my doctors.
She vividly remembers her handwriting class and her teacher, Ms. Glen, where she attended a rural school near Birmingham, Ala.
“Handwriting, like math and reading, was major,” Russaw said.
She also recalled the time that the white superintendent visited Ms. Glen’s handwriting class. Russaw’s handwriting skills garnered many achievements for her in church, Scouting and at Tuskegee Institute, where agriculture was celebrated annually.
One researcher reported that the decline of penmanship is easy to explain, because it has been neglected, and is no longer part of the curriculum in more than 40 states. These states replaced the cursive writing requirement with keyboarding.
Writer James Petersen, in an excellent article carried in Rotarian magazine titled, “Cursive foiled again?” wrote that handwriting shaped America. “Our independence came at a time when men exercised the power of the signature to proclaim identity and intent,” Petersen wrote.
Dorothy Johnson, a retired Fairfield-Suisun School District teacher who lives in Vacaville, said that she was very much against doing away with cursive writing in the public schools. Cursive writing helps with self-discipline and giving careful thought to what one is writing, she said.
“What are we going back to – writing an X for our signature?” she asked.
We are generating a society that doesn’t speak, spell or write correctly, she said.
Johnson remembers growing up in El Dorado County, where eighth-graders had to pass a cursive writing test.
One of the funniest cartoons of all times comes from one of our local newspapers and shows a high school graduate in cap and gown with his cellphone sending the following status update message:
“Your not gone to belief this but i am about to garduate! i am so reddy for collage!”
I guess he didn’t have cursive writing at his school.
Bonnie Munkholm, a retired Fairfield-Suisun School District teacher who lives in Vacaville, is another strong advocate for keeping cursive writing in the school curriculum. Every child needs to know how to read and write just to be a part of society, and we need to hold on to the original English language that is being sacrificed to the technological world, she said.
“Maybe we should each have our own creative language and then no one can understand each other,” she said. “We hardly talk to each other as it is.”
Author Philip Hensher wrote that we have lost one of the ways, cursive writing, by which we come to know and recognize another person. Perhaps this is one way he noted, to get handwriting back into our lives – as something that is a pleasure, is good for us and that is human in ways not all communication systems manage to be.
One educational psychologist wrote that writing by hand activates parts of the brain involved in thinking, language and working memory.
Some helpful hints to include handwriting in our daily lives from author Hensher include:
Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.