It is sheer coincidence that yesterday a dear former student uploaded on Facebook a scanned copy of a report that I wrote for his brother way back in 1996. This initiated a lot of responses, some of which appreciated me for the fine handwriting I have. And today I read in * http://bit.ly/11RKsAW that 23rd January is celebrated in the US as National Handwriting day. And Edutopia ** http://bit.ly/11RK8SI of course, asks the very pertinent question, “Is cursive writing cursed with extinction?” In their FB page they also ask, “Are you for or against teaching cursive in schools?” and I respond vehemently, “FOR!”
Scanned copy of my Subject Report, courtesy former students, Aron & Ruban Calvin
Today with tech tools, emails and instant messaging available, and key board proficiency gaining importance, no one seems to bother about cursive writing. Other than for examinations in schools and colleges, we hardly write with pen and paper in the real adult world. In fact the day that we will see pupils/students typing out their answers using tech devices in examination halls, is not far off. Be this as it may, I love cursive writing. I understand that many schools, public and private have altogether discarded the practice of teaching cursive writing. May be I am still old school. I believe that some training in penmanship is never out of place in schools – don’t we often say, “catch ‘em young” for everything? Then why not for this too?
I did my primary school in a nuns’ convent – Sacred Heart Convent, Valparai, in the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu. Therefore, handwriting was given utmost importance. Later, when I moved to St. Thomas Convent, Olavakkode, Palakkad, Kerala too, where I completed my middle school, things were not very different. While the first lessons were given at school, home was equally a place to reckon with. Dad and Mom who took keen interest in our education, paid as much interest in the cursive hand as the nuns did.
At High School & College there was not very great stress on improving my handwriting – may be because by then it was well formed, and adorned with strokes in the running hand. Yet, we had to write a page of copy writing from Social Studies or English lessons on a regular basis. At home, copy writing was the most important routine especially during holidays. We had to write a page copying the editorial of The Hindu newspaper in English and ditto from the Mathrubhumi for Malayalam. Once that was done, we could spend our entire day playing! And the fact that there was nothing indoors – no TV / Computer / Mobile phone etc – it ensured that we all played vigorously outdoors!
Today when everyone tell me I have a beautiful handwriting, I thank the Nuns who encouraged this at school and say a truckload of thanks to Daddy. I wrote these newspaper editorial copies even while at college. Dad must have then thought that his dear daughter’s handwriting has become consistent and steady, and that she needn’t write in copy books anymore. But, I must have been about 20 years old when that happened. The result – a sinuous cursive writing hand, with strokes and swirls, making it the viewers’ delight, the owner’s pride!
What charm is there in print letters? I see none. In fact, you need a cursive hand at least for your signature. Or else, won’t it be too easily forgeable? A lot of archived documents like constitution and so on are written in cursive in many countries. Won’t student have a disconnect with them if they can’t decipher cursive writing? Research and occupational therapy bodies ( The American Occupational Therapy Association – AOTA) vouch for the fact that learning cursive writing will hone the fine motor skills of students.*** “It’s the dexterity, the fluidity, the right amount of pressure to put with pen and pencil on paper,” Ms. Sandy Schefkind, a pediatric coordinator with AOTA says, adding that for some students cursive is easier to learn than printing. Studies also illustrate how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. Indiana University researchers using an MRI machine discovered that children’s neural activity was far more enhanced when they practiced writing by hand after receiving instruction than when they simply looked at letters. As a teacher I also feel that not being able to write in cursive could jeopardize the future of our pupils. I just cannot underestimate the enormous amount of self esteem and self confidence a beautiful cursive hand can instil in our pupils. For this very reason alone it is worth teaching our pupils the cursive hand. Check it out, for, I am a living example!