Sunday, June 9, 2013

Trouble With The Curve

You've probably heard schools are phasing out cursive writing, and it's about time. Apart from my signature, I've barely written in cursive for years.

In the first grade, I underwent rigorous penmanship practice, one letter at a time. I never understood why a cursive "Q" looked more like a "2", or why some cursive "P's" were puffy and others slender, with a small tab at the top. Lowercase "z" also looked too much like a "2," but I didn't get to complain about any of it.

Our teacher set a date for us to begin writing everything in cursive, only it came earlier than I thought.

"We start writing in cursive today, young man," Mrs. Wilson scolded me, right in the face.

When my peers and I went to church school, somebody would ask, "Do we have to write this in cursive?"

"Write it any way you want!" our church teachers would reassure us. Not only were they loving and reasonable people, I gather they also knew the ugly truth: college would destroy their handwriting, anyway.

It's hard to write quickly and legibly when taking notes from a motor-mouth professor. Some people can pull it off, but I can't. I had already reverted back to my sans-serif font in high school. Cursive came out only when I needed the handwriting equivalent of italics.

"Be particular about your handwriting," my third-grade teacher once told the entire class. I was, and I sure as shootin' wasn't adding any more unnecessary loops and flourishes.

"How are we supposed to learn how to sign our names?" one teacher asks. Well, we won't. We'll print our names neatly and legibly, just like we did at the top of our homework, allowing some verifier of our identities know it's really us in letters we can read rather than scribbles we can't. A printed signature is still handwritten, and it still has distinguishing characteristics that can match up with the rest of our markings. A "Q" will be a "Q" and a "Z" a "Z." And we'll hopefully re-allocate cursive teaching time towards forming complete, coherent sentences that read as beautiful as they used to look.

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