I am so thrilled to tell you that the Globe and Mail published an article on the lost art of cursive handwriting and its place in our ever-changing and fast-paced world. I knew it was coming, mainly because Dave McGinn, the reporter, contacted us a few weeks ago to ask about our Children’s Handwriting Class and the parents that bring their kids and how it’s all going.
I feel like every once in a while an article pops up sharing a study on learning cursive writing or letter writing or hand writing in the classroom, and I think it’s because as the world collectively speeds along, amassing information exponentially, there is some pause in our society about what we may be losing as we race ahead.
Here are a few reasons why everyone, and children in particular, may consider learning cursive writing:
- The hand/mind connection when you write in “joined up writing” helps your mind also join up thoughts and ideas. Check out this article for more details. To me, this is the number one reason: it helps you think, be effective, be creative.
Writing by hand in a journal to help you debrief after a long day, taking notes in a meeting (rather than typing rote dictation of things being said), firing up neurons to get your brain thinking. This article outlines all the ways writing by hand, and cursive writing in particular, helps you think, aiding in memory, people with learning disabilities, cognitive development, the list goes on.
- Confidence – having clear, legible and effortless handwriting can give the writer confidence, whether it’s sending off a thank you note to your boss, or a letter to your grandmother. For school-aged children especially, struggling to form letters (neatly) can take up precious brain space that could be used to understand or form new ideas. I think being embarrassed about something as integral to us as our hand writing is a bit like being embarrassed about your voice.
- Cursive handwriting can truly be beautiful. Your handwriting can be something that sets you apart, and makes people stop and pause and remember you. It can be an art form, and one that just requires a piece of paper and a pen.
- Speaking of being set apart, as the public school system increasingly de-emphasizes cursive writing while the private schools system still requires students to learn it, more and more graduates of our public schools may be at a disadvantage when they struggle to read notes from their boss or sign their name. Cursive handwriting may become a marker for a “higher level” of education.
The two biggest reasons I hear against learning cursive writing I don’t quite buy, although of course, I’m a bit biased.
The first is that there’s not enough time, and this is something I find a little silly. Learning cursive handwriting can start with ten minutes a day, easily done during the commercials of your favourite TV show or during an afternoon snack. If you develop this habit, I might go so far as to say this may become a favourite meditative break from your day.
The second is that cursive writing is no longer required with technology everywhere. First, see the hand/mind connection, and second, I think the all-pervasiveness of technology is all the more reason to learn cursive writing: to have another, slower, linear way of thinking, to reduce the flickering and buzzing, and to think more creatively and effectively, without distraction.
I recently read this article on why we might consider single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and I think writing by hand is a step in this direction – to take the time and energy to focus and do one task completely and well. I think everyone by now has seen any number of the articles on the effectiveness of taking notes by hand versus taking notes with a laptop (here’s one). You may not need to write by hand, but writing by hand may actually be better than using technology all the time.
I know that not everyone is going to learn calligraphy or create elaborate masterpieces, however, cursive writing is a skill that can be learned, and once learned, is a skill that can be used everyday. It’s a bit like learning how to chop vegetables properly – it’s the basic foundation to learning to cook “real food” to eat at a real dinner table (I love Michael Pollan).
You don’t necessarily need to become a chef, but once you’ve learned how to chop that onion properly, you can do so efficiently, neatly and without thinking – and dare I say with a flourish? Learning this skill will help feed you food that isn’t microwaved and ready in 30 seconds; learning it may even impress your future spouse. It will teach you to appreciate what you eat and help you to create something authentic and meaningful to share with the ones you love.
And I would argue, at least for me, the human connection with writing by hand can be something pretty powerful, and even necessary in this age of internet isolation: to be thoughtful with a note in the mail, or surprise someone with the note that comes with a handful of flowers. To leave a post-it note on your colleague’s desk or your child’s first crayoned letters. Those notes mamas have been leaving in kids’ lunch boxes for years are just not the same via text message on a phone.