I’ve been following the latest education flap concerning the teaching (or dropping) of cursive handwriting. Those who are against cutting it from the syllabus claim that somehow learning cursive wires the child’s brain for greater things. The silliest argument I read this morning wailed about future anthropologists and linguists not being able to read documents from our time because they wouldn’t know cursive! Oh yeah? I can read a lot of medieval scripts – admittedly, with some difficulty – without being able to write as those scribes did. And how did anyone figure out Egyptian hieroglyphics?
On the other hand, there is something to the notion that the brain treats handwriting and typewriting differently. Though I type all my fiction and non-fiction first drafts (but not poetry), I have to write my notes by hand. I’ve tried but I absolutely can’t get my raw thoughts down any other way. That’s why I was so panic-stricken when my notebook went walkabout after the Eaton Conference last spring. I think the exception about poetry is a clue, at least to the way my own brain is wired.
But why is cursive the gold-standard anyway? It’s an ugly, overly loopy script. When I was in school, they abandoned cursive – which had replaced the elegant copperplate of my grandparents’ time – for something more simplified with the name “Marian Somebody-or-other” who I suppose is the person who invented it. Then in college, they advocated for italic script, very pretty, but I never fully mastered it. Why is one style better than another – except for aesthetic reasons?
What do you think?