Saturday, September 3, 2011

Art in Writing

I heard a report a few weeks ago that has really bothered me.  Apparently, in most states, it is no longer required to teach cursive!  The moment I heard that-my gut told me this was a bad idea.  When I started writing this, I had no "scientific" evidence, but I felt intuitively that we were overlooking some important role that this type of learning offered. Then I started to think about learning to write.  I remember the first time I printed my name with no help.  My "e"s were all backward, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment!  It was my very first conscious learning experience.  My first AHA moment.  Later in school I remember looking up at the cursive letter cards tacked up above the chalk board across the front of the classroom.  I loved the graceful lines and loops, the flow of it all.  The smell of newly sharpened pencils and the crisp feel of the paper.  I am to this day a pen and pencil freak and can appreciate a nice smoothly woven piece of paper.

Well- it turns out there are a great deal of scientific facts about the brain and learning to write.  Motor skills, hand/eye coordination, etc.  A fairly recent study of adults was very interesting.  Two groups of adults were given a new alphabet to learn. Group A: learned by writing it with their hand. Group B: learned it on a keyboard.  Lo and behold, Group A was better able to retain the alphabet and recognize each character.  Group B-not so much.  It also showed that the area of the brain that is used in processes like writing was far more active in Group A than in Group B.  So- there's a brief, yet significant scientific fact on this issue.

Let's talk about cultural implications of not learning to write.  This is one of the most common ways that we universally express ourselves.  Not just in WHAT we are writing, but in HOW we are writing.  Our cursive is very much a shout to the world about who we are or who we perceive ourselves to be.  An expression of our individuality.  Teenage girls modify their writing by using curlicues or hearts to dot their "i"'s and cross their "t"'s. We choose how loose or tight a loop we make. Those things change as we change. They begin to reflect our maturing persons. When we become adults we use our signature to really tell the world who we are.  Ever really look at someone's signature?  It can tell you a great deal about that person.  Try it.

So, if we no longer teach cursive and we no longer have that tool for learning and developing our brains, what will take its place?  What other ways will kids have to express themselves that are completely their own?  Because our handwriting is one of the few things that is totally and completely our own.  I know it seems such a small thing, but I think it has some concerning implications.  We are so quick to embrace new technology, but do we ever give any real thought as to how it will affect our lives and the lives of people in the future?    It strikes me that this is one more way to depersonalize our lives.  We are slowly taking away the organic, hands-on physical experiences of learning. How many kids can tie a shoe-since they started using velcro?  I work with a woman who can only read digital clocks and she's a college graduate! Surely all of those things mean something.  They do to me.

Enjoy and find something to be grateful for today

P.S. I have talked to several teachers who are going to continue to teach cursive!


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