29 September 2014

Cursive Writing is being written out of curriculum ... should we family historians be worried?


A rare letter from my great gran, Mary (Taylor) Nelson to my mother, father & myself as we were leaving England for the US.
I do hope future generations can read this!

Cursive handwriting or the increasing lack of it in our world is something we’ve talked about before -- But Who Will Read The Record? Does Not Learning Cursive Mean Our Descendants Will Be Less Able to Read Handwritten Documents? (Feb 2012) and Have We Lost the Art of Writing Compelling Letters? (Nov 2012).

The heart of the issue is that when children are not being taught to write in cursive, does that also impact (e.g. impair) their ability to read cursive handwriting?

All of us, who look through handwritten documents, from those written long ago to last week’s grocery list, know that handwritten documents can often be indecipherable.  Alternately, just knowing that they were written in the hand-writing of our ancestor makes them so personal.  Their only value may be just that, they are something of our ancestors, or they may tell us incredible details about your ancestor and his/her life.

Michael J Leclerc (Chief Genealogist, Mocavo) on Huff Post recently postulated Killing Cursive is Killing History

We're going back in time, and not in a good way.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the average person had minimal education and could not read or write. As late as the early 20th century, vast numbers of people still could not even sign their name. After huge strides during the last century, well-intentioned legislators are set to return us to those times...

In order to read these personal documents(*), future generations will need to have someone transcribe them into a word-processing document.

Unfortunately, they'll miss the subtleties in the handwriting to indicate feelings and emotions while writing. They won't see the hard pen strokes of anger, and they won't be able to see the beautiful flowing handwriting of happiness. Much is lost in the translation.

(*) Michael mentions diaries, journals, letters and cards

I will say that some of my most treasured documents are hand-written letters.  For example, the last letter written from my great-grandmother to my mother before she died or the letters written to me by great auntie Edith or distant cousin “Jack” are all very special to me. To this day, I still love to receive cards from my daughter who always writes such neat sentiments in every one she gives. 

Nowadays, I mostly receive emails, FB posts, and text messages – many of which contain heartfelt messages (and I do preserve those) and it’s not quite the same visceral feel as sitting down on a coach, cup of coffee in hand, as I read and re-read the few handwritten letters I have from ancestors and relatives who I never met in person nor ever had a phone conversation with.  I rely on their letters and the warm memories they bring to keep them alive in my heart and as part of my children’s legacy.

Cursive writing besides being a means of communication was/is also a form of personal expression.  I just pulled out a memory box with some documents I wrote back over 30 years ago and was struck by how much my handwriting has changed.  My handwriting has changed as I have changed. 

And, as Michael mentions and I’ve addressed before, does the lack of training in cursive writing impair the ability of future generations to be able to read key historical documents?  Or even just those letters I’ve saved over the years?

What do you think?



Editor’s Note: A few other related articles ...
+ The Future of Cursive (Genealogy’s Star)





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