Cursive – foiled again! Or, Scribble Jam

cursive

GateHouse — When I was a kid in the late 1920s, elementary school teachers taught us the capital cursive letter Q as a sort of hieroglyphic, something like the number 2 with pretentious and goofy curls exploding off of its ends. It was, I remember, the one letter in all the cursive lesson that didn’t make a lick of sense; it looked like it came from some long-dead alien alphabet and certainly wasn’t something you ran across a lot in “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. But, wanting to be good students, we all dutifully picked it up, mastered it in the third grade and immediately stopped using it in the fourth grade.

But kids today don’t have to learn the flowery, stupid Cursive Q That Isn’t A Q, for the very logical reason that they’re not learning cursive at all. Kids these days, because of the texting and the hip-hop and Obama’s Kenyan health-care plan, do not spend a lot of time worrying about their handwriting, especially their cursive; in fact, my generation — Generation Y, another letter that looks wicked silly with the whirlydoodles all over it — might be one of the last to deal with the fading style at all.

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  • More writing on writing from the Inverted Soapbox: “D.O.H.”

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Time magazine last week published this piece about the Death of Handwriting, which happened because Handwriting’s doctor gave it too many painkillers. All across the country this back-to-school season, schools are adapting to the decreasing demand for crisp, pure handwriting. And it’s not just schools: Zaner-Bloser, the country’s largest supplier of handwriting manuals, actually quashed that cursive Q/2 in 1990, when it was discovered that it was creating legibility problems for people at the post office, and we all know what can happen when there are problems with employees at the post office.

Sure, practically speaking, this is no great shakes. Most students will tell you that rocking good penmanship scores you about as many cool points as perfect attendance, which is somewhere between “not many” and “splash – your head is in the toilet!” (I know this firsthand: in elementary school I was a frequent recipient of the coveted “Excellent Handwriting” award, an honor that resulted in tremendous admiration from my classmates, which they expressed via a loving series of playground pantsings and by throwing congratulatory basketballs at my face.) And, frankly, I’d much rather be able to read a handwritten thank-you card, for instance, than admire its aesthetic similarity to the Declaration of Independence.

But it does, to me, pose a quivery qualified linguistic quagmire that bothers me in those rare moments I’m not paging through the dictionary: Can they do that? Has the international handwriting lobby grown that vast and powerful? Because cursive is “outmoded” and “often illegible” and “much less convenient and practical than using print and especially computers,” we’re just going to throw it on the social and historical junk-heap along with the Commodore 64, vinyl records and the modern Republican Party?

Because who’s to say where it stops? Apparently, Prince can make up his own symbols and command the masses, however uninterested, to use them. I could decide tomorrow that my name should be Sprinkles! von Fluergelstein! (pronounced “Tito”), but I don’t, because I’m sort of attached to languages the way they are now, and also because I know where the keys on the BlackBerry are. What if we let corporate interests and tiny musicians continue to wreak havoc on our 26 glorious letters? What if they get rid of, say, H? Tink ow orrible tat would be! That does it — it’s time to register my opposition to this to local schools and the Zaner-Bloser people. I am so sending them an angry e-mail.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

10 responses to “Cursive – foiled again! Or, Scribble Jam

  • Davis

    You’ve made some excellent points. The only time I write cursive these days is my signature, which is basically just a scrawl anyway

    Like

  • Katie Bradshaw

    So, this fall, I’m going from teaching first and second grade to teaching third, fourth, and fifth grade. I have had sleepless nights lately…worrying about my cursive handwriting! Whew! Looks like I might get some sleep after all. 🙂

    Like

  • Natalie T

    Come to Valpo, Jeff… we still teach cursive!!! 2nd grade, second semester, they all learn it…

    Like

  • Don Johnson

    Jeff,

    Read your editorial regarding Cursive writing. I am not a teacher, but a regular writer in the Cursive style. WIsh I could send this to you in cursive.

    I still write notes, and personal letters in cursive, so I get to practice often. I believe that my cursive style is getting better, and more legible as I keep doing it.

    Although I do not like it, apparently the trend is away from cursive and toward texting and keyboarding. Cursive writing of notes and letters is becoming a lost art. I am sorry to see it go.

    Regards,

    Don Johnson
    Class of ’61
    Springville, Utah, High School

    Like

  • Leeann

    I find it hard to believe you ever received an award for handwriting. 🙂

    Like

  • Brandylynn

    My concern with the elimination of cursive handwriting was how will the future generations learn to sign their signature? It’s a legal form of identification. Although some places require fingerprint scans now instead of a signature, it couldn’t be eliminated completely, could it?

    Like

  • runningthroughheartbreak

    This is hilarious. Thanks for brightening my day.

    Like

  • Conal

    I always hated the cursive Q until a few months ago when I tested my fading knowledge of cursive letters. By change I figured out why it looks like that. If you write the exact same figure but instead begin the point on the bottom line (that is, complete the circle), it looks like a perfect Q. I guess “they” moved the initial starting point higher for better flow from the previous word.

    Like

  • Conal

    I’m looking out for you, Vrabel. Any other graphological queries, you just come to me.

    Like

  • Arrez

    I always hated the cursive Q until a few months ago when I tested my fading knowledge of cursive letters. By change I figured out why it looks like that. If you write the exact same figure but instead begin the point on the bottom line (that is, complete the circle), it looks like a perfect Q. I guess "they" moved the initial starting point higher for better flow from the previous word….

    Like

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