published Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Kennedy: Cursive writing, it's time for you to rest in peace

Over time, my signature has devolved into a dying-man's EKG, a little spasm of an "M" followed by a sad, flat line.

I attribute this to the paperwork involved in buying and selling houses. When you're required to sign your name 30 times in 30 minutes, years of careful penmanship can just melt.

Actually, I was an early proponent of the movement to end cursive writing as we know it.

As a left-hander with peculiar brain functions, cursive writing never came naturally. I had no natural flow. To me, it seemed like drawing word portraits.

Yet, in my third-grade class at Riverside School in Columbia, Tenn., in 1967, I labored over blue-lined paper until my ragged script came to resemble actual words.

As soon as teachers stopped demanding that homework be done in cursive, I switched back to the block letters that would become the foundation for my everyday handwriting from the seventh grade forward. All that remained of the cursed cursive was a shaky signature that -- even in my young-adult years -- looked like the mark of stressed out third-grader.

Later, defying logic, I chose a career that requires copious note-taking. Not only that, but you must be able to read what you write -- or risk getting sued.

A recent article in the New York Times notes that, among today's college students, cursive writing is rare. As recently as 2007, the article notes, only about 15 percent of ACT takers used cursive writing on the essay question.

Experts quoted in the Times article said the main advantages of learning cursive writing are:

• The ability to read old letters and other historical documents.

• The development of fine motor skills in children.

I have some children, so I asked them to rate cursive writing.

My 11-year-old son, who has hard-to-read, block handwriting, said he remembers spending about a week on cursive writing in the third grade.

My younger son, age 6, overheard our conversation and volunteered that he wanted to learn "curt-sive writing, TONIGHT!"

He said "some girl" in his kindergarten class said that she could sign her name in cursive, but he thinks she was just bragging.

I'll go out on a limb and say that historians will note that cursive writing died, for all practical purposes, in the early decades of the 21st century.

I, for one, volunteer to shovel dirt on its coffin.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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Jack_Dennis said...

Naw, it can be a beautiful thing.

December 2, 2012 at 12:32 a.m.
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