Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cursive Is Over

Yesterday, the Significant Other and I had a nice meal at a new restaurant near our home.  When the bill came, he gave the server a credit card to settle the check.

She pulled out a little computer, slid the card across and handed the computer back to him.  First he punched in his preferred tip -- 15%, 20% or 25% were the suggestions but some places now offer a 30% option as well.

Then the screen presented a space for him to sign his name with his finger.

The SO scrawled a little line on the screen, which then closed.

"That's not my signature," he said to the server.  "Maybe I should do it again."

"No, no, the payment's been accepted," she said.  "You don't want a receipt, do you?"

This is where we are going now.  Paper is over.  Pens are over.

And screens are taking cursive writing away along with them.

Cursive Handwriting

My third-grade classroom had a wall chart like the one at the top of this article.  I was very excited when I saw this on the first day of school because it meant I would soon give up printing my letters like a little kid.  I would be writing them, like a grownup.

Schools still teach children cursive handwriting, of course.  One young person I know told me the cursive posters were still perched over the whiteboards as recently as a few years ago and that teachers taught students how to write sentences in cursive, repeating the lessons over several years.

But somehow the lessons have not taken.

Another friend told me the other day about a woman who has two grown daughters -- each smart, bilingual and possessing at least one master's degree.

The woman had to teach her daughters how to sign their names in cursive.  Apparently they were still printing their signatures, and she worried that this would create problems when they wrote checks to pay rent and utility bills.

That, of course, is assuming they even had checkbooks.  Pretty much every bill can be paid electronically these days.  My state actually requires tax payments to be submitted via bank transfers.

The only problem the woman has now is that her children cannot read cursive handwriting.  If they receive friendly notes from, say, their grandmother, they turn to their mother to decode the messages.


Older people who learned printing and cursive handwriting before computers came along have been raising a fuss -- defending how they were taught and questioning these newfangled ways.

In 2014, a New York Times science piece quoted three studies done by four psychologists that threatened ill consequences for the brains of children not trained to write by hand.  A sample point:

        Cursive or not, the benefits of writing by hand extend beyond childhood. For adults,
        typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency
        may diminish our ability to process new information. Not only do we learn letters
        better when we commit them to memory through writing, memory and learning
        ability in general may benefit.

Several other articles in respected journals suggested that taking notes by hand was vastly superior to typing notes on laptops during college classes.  The reasoning was that handwriting involved more focus and led to better absorption of material being presented.

(Personally, I question this.  I have had occasion to sit in on several college classes in recent years.  The students typing on laptops are more likely to be updating social media than taking notes on what their professors are saying.  And the professors circulate power-point summaries, by computer, after each class anyway.)

I say, leave those kids alone.

Children are faced with learning more ways to communicate, earlier, than was the case in the past.  Elementary curriculums now start "keyboarding" in kindergarten, or first grade at the latest.  Back in the prehistoric era, students like me took "typing" as an elective offered in high school.

And a good thing, too.  My handwriting is atrocious.

Tomorrow:  Signatures of Note

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