I am certain of four things:
Death and taxes will never go away,
no tattoo artist will ever leave any inked artwork anywhere on my body,
I never want to forget how to use a pen.
I consider myself lucky to be a product of a childhood where cursive was required and taught daily up through the 6th grade, with deliberate attention and expectation by my teachers to put faithful effort into learning to master the letter formation/slant and appearance of my handwriting to the best of my ability.
I equally consider myself to be a lucky adult who entered the world of computers and rapidly advancing technology during her office work life years. I love all this technology stuff and the way my computer and the Internet can whiz me around the globe and into resource materials and help me keep connected—or get reconnected—with former friends, relatives and co-workers.
But I don’t want to be only one way or the other. I want and need my keyboard skills to remain at peak performance, but I also want my handwriting muscles to remember how to connect with my brain, maintain the eye-hand coordination and motor skill development that I’ve been developing ever since one of my teachers said: “Today we are going to begin cursive writing . . .”
The other day I read an article about a local 10-year old girl who was named the Grand National Champion for the fourth-grade division of the Zaner-Bloser 21st Annual National Handwriting Contest.
My heart went yippy-skippy at the very headline and the inference therein: OMG! There are still kids out there in this thumb-punching, electro-gadget society who actually like to write using a pen!
The article was telling. The principal at this girl’s school commented in the article that she receives a lot of grief from her fellow administrators because she is allowing handwriting to be taught in her school yet! R-e-e-a-l-l-y . . .?
But the next paragraph in the article presented a fine point, as the girl’s teacher pointed out how the class talks about the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at the beginning of their school year—and how these important American documents are written in cursive. “We tell the kids they can’t read these historical documents if they can’t read cursive handwriting.”
Contemplate the implications here . . . We do want our future lawyers, judges and general voting public and the like to be able to read these docs–don’t we?
For sure we can’t, nor should we want to try to stem the flow of improving technology and communication methods, but to think we should abandon completely something as personal and fundamental as our individual handwriting scares me a bit, I guess.
When you write your thoughts, ideas—or even just your signature–on paper, that is pure You, however good or bad it looks. That comes right out of your center of being. That is your ink-spot place on this planet, baby. Doesn’t that count for something?
We are still warm-blooded and soft human beings; we aren’t robots who have a chip with a predesigned signature on it that can be produced at the punch of a couple of keys. That doesn’t require any invested human emotion—it just takes some technological programming. Big deal. It’s cold as ice—and there is no human connection behind it.
I’ve been clocked at 90 words a minute typing—and that is with a pretty dang high accuracy, too.
When I’ve taken part in the National Novel Writing marathons, I’ve had days where I keyboarded in as many as 6200 words in one day. My right hand shakes at the thought of trying to write that many words with a pen. But consider this: I have read interviews with Stephen King where he said he will still handwrite out some of his first drafts for his manuscripts. Wow. Whether you like his stuff or not, you have to give the guy credit for being able to longhand draft a manuscript.
A keyboard lets you fly. True enough. But when you pick up a pen, your mind has to slow down because most of us can’t write as fast as our mind can take us. It is in that slowed down phase that we then can go deeper, interact more with our thought processes, our feelings, our ideas — and we have a ton of wonderful inventions that keep us all cozy and comfy today because of people who worked this way.
It is this untapped magic that I fear we will overlook, if we become content to only write with keyboards, and fail to allow the next generations their chance to experience writing with their own hand as they learn to navigate around cursive instruction and practice.
And if that isn’t enough, consider what this latest 4th grader National Champion had to say about it:
“It’s faster to write in cursive than to print. Most adults use cursive, so it’s good to be able to read what they write.”