Forward to the Past: Penmanship Ahoy!
by Owen Fourie
Is there any point in insisting on cursive writing? We all have computers and other electronic gadgets that allow us to type our communications. With the increase in laptop usage in classrooms, cursive writing has become outdated, and it can no longer be regarded as an essential skill.
It is pointless to regard the use of cursive writing and the use of laptops as things that are in opposition. Both are necessary, both have advantages, and both should be used.
As it was, is now, and perhaps never shall be
Cursive is the term used to describe a flowing form of writing. The letters of each word are joined to each other, not separated as in a printed script.
Cursive derives from the Latin currere, which means to run. Current comes from the same word. Think of the flow of a current in water, or air, or electricity.
Until the early decades of the 20th Century, cursive writing had been a long-established practice worldwide. It was an unquestioned tool of literacy.
From then, however, with the introduction of a simplified print-script in schools as a precursor to cursive writing, the consensus has shifted to favor printing more than cursive writing.
Today, it seems that only a few see the benefits of retaining and teaching cursive writing.
Forward to the past
In the interests of improvement and progress, it is sometimes necessary to reconsider past practices, their good sense, benefits, and advantages.
Consider this about cursive writing. It was used because:
- it was in harmony with the most natural arm, wrist, hand, and finger movements;
- it was perfectly natural to write in a slant and to join letters together;
- it eliminated fatigue in writing;
- it aided speed and efficiency;
- it was the most useful of tools for our learning and communication;
- it became a built-in skill possessed for a lifetime and needing only to be easily used anywhere and at any time.
Concerning fatigue: in my experience, I have observed that students who wrote my copious notes on many subjects from the chalkboard in cursive were able to do so without tiring as quickly as those who printed them.
A physical skill
Cursive writing is a physical skill. The earlier it is learned, preferably from the first year of a child’s schooling, the better it will be. It requires muscular control and good hand and eye coordination.
It is a physical skill that has been observed to have many benefits. Here are some actual and potential advantages:
- It helps a student as it enables a constant crossing of the midline of the body. This increases electrical activity in the brain;
- It enhances the potential for learning. Observant college professors will testify that students who use cursive writing for their notes are easily the better students;
- It may help to eliminate the confusion of letters that some students demonstrate in writing and reading: b for d; d for b; p for q; q for p. Dyslexic and dysgraphic students could benefit greatly by writing cursively;
- It may help the stutterer and the stammerer to overcome this embarrassing problem. There seems to be a connection between cursive writing and speech.
In the remaining part of this article on handwriting, we’ll consider the practical aspect: sitting comfortably and correctly; holding the writing instrument; writing as a left-hander; and using resources.
If you use cursive writing, what are your personal experiences of its benefits? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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