The Death of Handwriting

The Death of Handwriting
Dan Gould
  • 27 january 2009

Is cursive handwriting even a valid skill anymore? A sentimental Boston Globe article explores this rapidly atrophying communication method, and discovers, although it has its fans, it’s essentially going extinct.

In today’s world, this seems logical – formal cursive handwriting just doesn’t seem necessary when so much communication is done via keyboard entered text. Even schools are phasing out penmanship. The Globe reports that A 2007 US Department of Education study shows nine out of 10 teachers only devote an average of 70 minutes per week to the teaching of handwriting.

But some, like Kitty Burns Florey author of Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting feel that the digital generation is loosing a link with the past. If peoples ability to read cursive handwriting completely disappears, how will they read old hand written notes, or a historical manuscript?

The Globe explains:

It’s a very disturbing problem,” said Kate Gladstone of Albany, N.Y., who has a website specializing in handwriting improvement. “I see people in their 20s and 30s who cannot read cursive. If you cannot read all types of handwriting, you might find your grandma’s diary or something from 100 years ago, and not be able to read it.” There are practical concerns as well. Sometimes we don’t have a computer, or the professor won’t let us bring it to class to take notes. Or sometimes, as happened in New Orleans hospitals during Hurricane Katrina, computers lose power and medical orders and records have to be written out by hand.

It all sounds like nostalgia for an antiquated practice. We’re in a post handwriting world, and no matter how nice it seems in theory, there just isn’t a need to spend excessive time teaching a dying art. As long as people can read and write printed writing on some basic level what does it mater if their cursive skills are up to par? Time is better spent on teaching more appropriate skills like touch typing, writing and critical thinking

All this said, we could see handwriting eventually come back into as an analog throwback kind of hobby, as seen in the craft movement of recent years.

The Boston Globe: “Cursive, foiled again”


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