BOSTON (CBS) – Curses! War has been declared on all things cursive. In case you haven’t noticed, schools throughout the land are phasing out cursive handwriting from the standard curriculum. With keyboards rapidly replacing pencils over the past twenty-five years, the relevancy of the handwritten word with its sloping, elegant cursive style is sadly on the wane. Gone are the days when first and second graders pressed down hard on number 2 pencils in a desperate attempt to form the perfect capital “R” or “S” or any of the remaining twenty-four. Children, who the last time I checked were still being brought into the world with opposable thumbs, have become so used to applying those thumbs as texters, that the very idea of actually writing something out longhand is as foreign to them as hand cranking a car.
While I’m not in favor of overdoing the whole retro thing (no need to bring back inkwells and quills), it is high time we stood up to defend that which helped form us, yet another fading quality of our once impressive individuality. How many of you (dear readers old enough to remember Sly Stone, mimeograph paper and whitewalls) remember the feeling you got scrunching down with your cheeks close to the wide-lined paper to craft your name in pen, that name which your mommy and daddy and God in heaven intended for you. Did you ever daydream in middle school that you were a famous movie star with the world just desperate for your autograph? I certainly did, ending up signing my name to book covers, permission slips, lunch bags…anything I could get my hands and my pencils on. If you attended Catholic school, you might still have the scars on your knuckles, the direct result of over zealous fun-loving nuns who weren’t going to let you get away with anything, let alone an uncrossed “T.”
To be serious for a moment, writing by hand invokes a rather special connection between the creative brain, your heart, your life experience and the paper. There is a cool kind of energy that all of us experience when we write long hand in our diary or journal, when we craft a poem, send a condolence card, share a recipe with a friend or start working on the great American novel.
Imagine what will disappear when and if the children of the digital age cease using their own digits to hold a writing implement?
Old dusty documents (say for instance the Declaration of Independence) will be ignored even more so than they are today. One of the great all-time hand writers John Hancock is surely rolling over. One’s signature on the fabled dotted line will mean less and less, except of course in the eyes of credit card companies and those pesky IRS auditors. The old joke about not be able to read your doctor’s handwriting just won’t be funny anymore. Love notes will go the way of eight-tracks. Let’s not forget about the harmful impact this will have on graffiti and the artists who create it. Text messages on I-Pads are no substitute for spray paint cans and subway stations. Those fountain pens that so many bar mitzvah boys once received with pride will wind up on E-Bay with only the oddest of nostalgia buffs interested in them. Papermate, Bic, Mont Blanc et al will have to diversify and fast. Crossword puzzle fans will be forced to “go keyboard” which is ever so tedious. And perhaps worst of all, the death of cursive writing is like many a gateway drug. Soon, we could face an even greater threat —the end of doodling as we have come to know it, need it and love it.
You’re dealing with a self-taught typist here who wouldn’t trade in his computer for anything. I’m at these keys more hours per day than any classical pianist. But I rue the day when old fashioned writing goes away and the old expression, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” is watered down to something like, “I’ll text you Dude and we’ll like have peace and stuff!”
Hey, that’s pretty good. I’ll have to write that down.