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Conversations About Handwriting

• An interesting letter appeared recently in the Wisconsin Star Journal making the argument that while handwriting is important, cursive actually is not.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Educational Research titled “The relationship between handwriting style and speed and legibility,” these writers join only some letters, not all of them, making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes are dissimilar.

The author of the letter was Kate Gladstone from Albany, New York, the CEO of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works.

The kind of handwriting she describes is exactly how I write. Except for the legibility.

• Not everyone is mourning the passing of handwriting from the curriculum of schools across the United States.

Writer Greg Beato has taken to the pages of Reason magazine to poo-poo the idea that handwriting is worth much either in practical or aesthetic terms and instead, looks forward to its demise.

Before cursive became a signifier of our souls, it was just a communications technology. And now it’s been largely replaced by a more convenient and powerful one. That keyboards are colonizing one of the last bastions of handwriting should be cause for rejoicing, not despair. As long as we continue to use our refrigerators as a primary medium of communication with our spouses, as long as we can demonstrate our good taste and discretionary wealth in chic cafes via $19 notepads, as long as our public spaces are filled with giant empty walls waiting to be tagged by budding graffiti artists, hand-writing will persist. But why use it in classrooms?

...The digital era has given us, for better or worse, emoticons, hashtags, and a vast array of acronyms, all of which adorn our utterances not just with flashy visual effects but more meaning, more nuance, more us. ;-)

Yes, because nothing says "me" quite like a generic emoticon.

• Tip o' the hat to the Pentel blog for posting a cute story about a note-in-a-bottle that connected two kids across thousands of miles of ocean.

Ten-year-old Thomas Craig put the note in the bottle and pitched it overboard during a family fishing trip in Oregon last year, according to the article.

The bottle eventually made its way to Hawaii, where it was recently found by Trinity Ballesteros, 9.

Trinity was beachcombing along the shore in Kailua-Kona when she spotted the old fashioned-looking bottle. “My first thought was what if someone is really in trouble and they’re sending out an SOS,” she said. “Would I even be able to help? Were they lost at sea or stuck on a deserted island? Were they even in Hawaii?”

Surrounded by friends and family, Trinity opened the bottle and found the letter, which read, “Dear finder of my message, My name is Thomas and I live in Oregon. I’m ten years old and this week I’m salmon fishing deep in the ocean. I would like to hear from you.”

According to the Pentel blog, the two have been exchanging emails since the find.

Who knows, they might even write each other a letter.

One thought on “Conversations About Handwriting”

  • Fayre

    I would tend to agree that cursive is not an essential element of handwriting. Learning to control the pen and write clearly and consistently at a decent speed is vital - if that happens to result in cursive writing, that is all well and good, if it simply results in good, clear, handwriting, that is fine.

    I'm not aware that cursive has been taught in the UK for a long time, my mother wasn't taught cursive in the 50s, I wasn't in the 90s - we can both write reasonably legibly which is the important thing!

    Writing is about so much more than simply putting letters on a page - the skills we learn (fine motor skills, hand eye co-ordination) can not be learnt at a keyboard. And you are right, :) doesn't convey as much as a handwritten flourish!

    Handwriting in the classroom is vital - I also think that computer science lessons are vital, I'm not a luddite - for one thing, cutting and pasting with handwriting is very obvious, learning to plan an essay, for example, organising your thoughts via notes before commiting pen to paper and writing a flowing, fluent argument....on a computer jumping to and fro is easy, planning and working on structure are out of the window. Both are skills I want my employees to have - if they don't write by hand in school, the chances are they won't have them.

    I'm glad that Thomas' letter was found, I too put a message in a bottle when I was a child....nothing ever came of it.

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