In 2010, the Common Core Education Standards dropped the requirement to teach cursive writing. Who needed it? Everyone had migrated to computers, tablets, and phones to compose documents and communicate.
Except for renowned author Pat Conroy, that is. Conroy was not allowed to take a typing course in high school. He told me this when I met him and his wife Cassandra King, also a writer, in Beaufort, SC a couple of years before he died.
Conroy’s dad grew up with the idea that typing was a girl-thing. In the same way, many sons of those days would have met a roadblock at the mention of signing up for Home Economics, he met a wall that said, “Typing class? No.”
Oh, I forgot. The word “typing” has gone out of style. The term is now “keyboarding.”
But I digress.
The good news is that Conroy and many writers before him knew how to wield pens and wield them, they did. Cursive writing dates back to the 1850s in America.
Our United States Constitution was written and signed into law by our founding fathers—in Cursive. The fact that many state school systems abandoned the teaching of this writing technique may serve as a clue. Could this be why so many individuals today aren’t familiar with the valuable content within the document that sealed our freedom? Many who cannot write in Cursive have difficulty reading it.
On the other hand, those who were taught how to brandish a pen in a flourish could use the method as a code to write secret messages. It would be kind of like how my parents and grandparents reverted to speaking their form of “Pig Latin” when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were talking about. When we asked them to translate, they smiled and said, “Dovous youvous lovevous mevous?”
Ha. Ha. Ha, ha, ha. At that moment, no, we “didn’tvous loveous” any of them—not one bit.
The problem with me using Cursive for code is that I would have to offer classes to teach people how to read my handwriting. Cursive writing was developed to help make writing faster. For me, that’s the literal definition of a double-edged sword. The faster I write, the more illegible my scribbling becomes.
When one joins the characters of the alphabet in a flowing manner, the result can resemble art. That’s how it is for my mother. Reading her handwriting is like enjoying a painting. Me? I often have to tell myself to slow down when I employ Cursive. If I feel like I may hurry a note or a letter or a journal entry, I revert to my first-grade days and print.
I can produce a pretty document. I can, just not often.
Back in 2010, cursive writing wasn’t totally shut down. States could teach it, but it was not required. The four Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) were pared to two. Many states bid Cursive “goodbye.” A few did not.
Cursive writing is making a comeback. A good thing if you ask me. In 2016, the number of states reinstituting the subject jumped from 14 to 16. To date, 21 states now require either 2nd to 4th graders or 3rd to 5th graders to learn how to write in Cursive. Applause for the states where I spend most of my time. South Carolina and West Virginia are two of the 21.
Why resuscitate what some feel a useless skill? Cursive writing conveys what typed pages do not—personality. No two people have the same handwriting.
Pat Conroy hand wrote every one of his novels. I am ever-grateful that his lack of “keyboarding” skills did not silence his voice.
writer, blogger, columnist