The return of cursive writing

the return of cursive writing

The return of cursive writing

A DEBATE has been raging in American schools about the importance of cursive writing, writing with the hand. An important magazine even published a story that said many young Americans cannot read cursive writing anymore.

I don’t know about that study because in my class at Miami University in Ohio, like other teachers, I use the Canvas learning platform. But I still use the whiteboard, which is called blackboard in the Philippines, even if the board is actually green.

I use a blue or black marker for the main text (usually short) and a green or a red one for the heading. And the students seem to understand my handwriting, as shown by the fact that during our one-on-one conference today, they referred to some parts of the lecture that I had written on the board a week ago.

What is the importance of learning cursive writing?

Its importance has been a subject of debate in recent years, particularly with the rise of digital communication and typing skills. However, there are still several arguments for the continued teaching and learning of cursive writing:

Cursive writing has been an integral part of human communication for centuries. It dates back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and the Romans. Throughout history, important documents, literature and personal correspondence have been written in cursive. Learning cursive allows individuals to read these historical documents, letters and manuscripts more easily, connecting them to the past and their cultural heritage.

I still remember the thrill I felt when I first visited the British Museum in 1993, and I saw a letter by Charles Dickens demanding payment of his royalties from his publisher! Or the delight I felt when I went to the British Museum again in 2019 and saw the first page of Angela Carter’s book, “The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories,” written in her fine and angular handwriting.

Moreover, writing in cursive requires more intricate hand movements than printing or typing.

It requires precise coordination between the hand, wrist and fingers. The continuous flow of cursive letters demands greater control and dexterity than printing or typing. For children, practicing cursive can help in the development of fine motor skills, which are essential for tasks such as handwriting, drawing and other manual activities. Research has shown that cursive writing also aids in muscle memory.

I remember my father patiently teaching me how to write the alphabet when I was five years old, giving me a thin cartilla book so I could copy the rise and dips and loops and whirls of the letters as if in a dance.

Research also suggests that learning cursive may have cognitive advantages over other forms of writing. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that students who learned cursive writing showed improved spelling skills and overall compositional fluency compared to those who only learned manuscript printing. Additionally, the rhythmic and flowing nature of cursive writing may engage different areas of the brain. This might enhance neural connections and cognitive function.

Aside from improved brain development, cursive writing also leads to better reading comprehension and retention of information. The act of forming letters in a connected, flowing manner may engage different parts of the brain compared to printing or typing. I remember the eight years I had spent in graduate school, reading thousands of pages of books. I would then summarize the stories, novels, or critical frameworks in my own words, in my own handwriting, and in my spiral notebooks. When my classmates would ask me how I retained such vast information, I said that I would summarize what I read in my notebook as soon as I had finished reading the books.

Cursive writing also allows individuals to develop their own unique handwriting styles, fostering personal expression and creativity. It can also enhance the aesthetic appeal of handwritten notes, cards and other forms of communication. I have kept the letters and cards I had received from such literary stars as the late Gilda Cordero Fernando, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Nick Joaquin, Kerima Polotan and Bienvenido N. Santos. Not only were they wise and witty words, they were also written in their own handwriting. The generation that came ahead of me (I was born in 1963) seemed to have such fine handwriting, obviously borne by the fact that they wrote many of their books in longhand, and only later by typewriters.

Moreover, many legal documents, contracts and signatures still require handwritten cursive. Learning cursive ensures individuals can sign documents legibly and confidently, which is essential for various official purposes. Some of these legal documents, including contracts, wills and forms of identification, still require handwritten signatures. Learning cursive ensures that individuals can produce a legible and consistent signature, which is essential for legal and financial transactions. Additionally, familiarity with cursive writing aids in the reading and understanding of handwritten documents, which may be encountered in various professional and personal contexts.

While digital communication is prevalent, there are still situations where handwritten notes or messages are more practical or appreciated, such as thank you cards, personal letters, or journaling. Cursive writing can be quicker and more efficient than printing in such contexts. The popularity of journaling and making scrapbooks in recent years has also signaled a return to cursive writing. Handwritten texts are found around, under, or on photographs, postcards, drawings, doodles and emojis in these journals and scrapbooks.

While digital communication seems to be the norm now, there are still situations where handwritten notes and messages are preferred or necessary. Handwritten thank you notes, sympathy cards and personal letters show the sincerity and thoughtfulness that may be lacking in the blink and gloss of an online greeting.

Moreover, in certain educational and professional settings, like in my classes, handwritten assignments and notes may be required or preferred. Cursive writing can be more efficient than printing in these instances, allowing for quicker note-taking and communication.

Just as each person’s voice has its own distinct qualities, so too does their handwriting. From the slant of the letters to the size and spacing of words, cursive handwriting reflects individual personality traits and preferences. In these days of Siri and Alexa, of dancing robots and machines, one’s handwriting is a stamp of individuality, a thumbmark that is yours and yours alone.

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