Madame Thursday





In third grade: Learn cursive, you will use it for the rest of your life
Middle School: Write in cursive if you want, but make sure it’s readable
High School: Please don’t write in cursive
College: If you do not type it I will not grade your paper

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I’ve written constantly in cursive since second grade. There was actually a short period of time where I had forgotten how to write certain letters in print.

Oh hey so I sure did blog about this exact thing back when I still used by LJ:

So I saw this comic:

Which got me thinking about this phenomenon enough to look up articles on the subject.

Whereby I found this:

“Today, however, business educators are discussing the appalling lack of cursive. Some students can’t write it and others can’t read it. And it’s not just an elementary-secondary school problem. Even some college teachers are concerned about the ability of some students to read and write cursive. It’s time for business educators to lead a cursive revival.”


See, this storied history of penmanship? Was a story of class warfare and systemic oppression. Penmanship was a marker of social class, so that those educated in the recognition of various styles would be able to immediately recognize the age, gender, and social class of whomever had written the note (women and men were taught radically different styles, for example) and basically allowed for yet another of class judgement and deliniation - a codified version of the tone argument. The content of a message would be weighed and measured based on how neatly it was written and in what style of script:

“But writing? Inessential. A good eye with a hunting rifle, the ability to judge planting times, good weaving skills, yes; but not writing. Writing was at best a commercial skill. For women, it held the same importance as needlework or dancing, while illegible writing on the part of gentlemen was considered proof that they were above crass commercialism. These attitudes also served as a powerful social control.

Suppose you were a lowly clerk with the proper mercantile “hand” for your station. Suppose you had some rather radical political or social ideas and the audacity to write an inflammatory pamphlet. You’d most likely have it published scribally, meaning it would be reproduced by hand by someone who, as I understand it, would reproduce it using a style appropriate for your station in life. Anyone among the upper classes (or other classes, for that matter) would know by the handwriting style with which the piece was written that you were only a clerk and that your words and thoughts should carry no weight.”

That is bullshit.

“A mindset has been promulgated among students and teachers alike that penmanship doesn’t matter because students “will type everything.”

In much of the modern world, they will. They will, in fact, often be required to.

“Other complaints have been made that keyboards, joysticks, cell phone touch pads, and the mouse have taken practice time away from handwriting. This practice time is necessary to achieve handwriting sensitivity and coordination. The lack of practice decreases the ability to write legibly.”

Not so much the case for manuscript. You can get the skills needed to write that legibly down in under a year and then get on with your life.

“Many students don’t even know how to hold a pencil properly or how to handwrite in a way that limits injuries.”


“Others lament the loss in more personal terms. “Cursive was so character defining when I was in school,” says Amy Greene to USAToday. “The way you wrote something was considered part of your inner being, your core, your worth…. Now it’s considered an anachronism.”


(also from the USAToday article)

“Michael Sull, a 54-year-old artist in Overland Park, Kan., says today’s third graders have not developed proper forearm and hand musculature, seated posture or mental discipline for cursive. The former president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting says keyboards, joysticks and cell phone touch pads have ruined kids’ ability to hold a pencil properly, let alone write legibly.”

BAW! Kids aren’t developing skills that have no relevancy to their lives! Why most of them don’t even have the musculature or discipline to manually churn butter!

“…who wants to send their teenager to college printing? Cursive is simply more efficient for notetaking!”

Know what’s even more efficient? Typing. Know what’s more efficient than any style in which you’re uncomfortable or untalented? One in which you possess speed and alacrity borne of comfort. If that’s manuscript, THAT IS MORE EFFICIENT.

I contend that there is no goddamned reason that students should be forced to learn anything other than the simple sans-serif manuscript methodology of writing that we teach them in kindergarten. It is perfectly capable of conveying messages. Most people will never be called upon in life to write anything that cannot be adequately conveyed with this system, nor should they be - we as humans have achieved a level of technology that generally allows most people to produce lovely, scripted documents -by choosing from a wide array of font faces-.

Those who want to pursue calligraphy as an art for are of course welcome to and should be nurtured in that interest. But that’s what script is at this point; a niche art form. It is CRUEL to force children who have no talent or interest in producing it to do so. It serves to valid function. Why the fuck would we want to bring it back?

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