My elementary school memories are full of cursive writing practice. Once taught to almost all children in primary school, cursive as a subject is disappearing.
Whole countries like Finland and two-thirds of the United States have dropped cursive writing from the curriculum in favor of teaching kids to “swipe, scribble and tap.”
For those who are not familiar with cursive writing, it is the lovely, flowing style of connected, rounded letters you usually find on Mother’s Day cards and wedding invitations.
Extensive use of computer keyboards and cell phone texting are blamed for the decline in cursive. In short, almost no one writes anymore. If the decline in the use of cursive continues, experts say, in time, no one will be able to read the U.S. Constitution or Hallmark greeting cards.
The fact is I have nearly forgotten how to write in longhand. My second grade teacher, Sister Mary Clare, would be so disappointed in me. She spent so much time teaching me proper penmanship and how to make all those loops and circles and curlicues. And, Sister Mary Clare — who we sometimes called Hitler — would spend a lot of time smacking my little hand with a big stick if I didn’t write those letters properly.
Sister Mary Clare Hitler would go, “That capital ‘Q”’ looks like a squiggly snake to me, Mister Kukla (whack). Is a capital ‘Q’ supposed to look (whack) like a squiggly snake (whack, whack)?
“Now, look at the letter “Q” on the blackboard (whack). Stop looking at your hand (whack). I’m going to teach you to write in cursive (whack, whack, whack) if it kills you (whack).”
I used to go home with my bloody little hand wrapped in writing paper and my mother would go, “What did you learn in school today?” And I would reply, “I learned to hate the capital letter Q. The small letters “q” and “p” are jerks, too.”
Working on a computer keyboard for so many years has short-circuited the penmanship portion of my brain. I no longer have the brain-hand-eye coordination needed to write in cursive a straight line, keeping the letters separated, flowing and readable.
When I do cursive writing these days, the letters comes out all bunched together in a downward trend, with blank spaces where I’ve forgotten how to make a certain letter.
My wife, Madeline, hates it when I write out things on the grocery list in cursive.
“What is ‘Wa_onnaisse?’ And, why do we need four cans of ‘Tundradish?’” she’ll ask me, looking at the list. “By the way, is this word ‘poop’ supposed to be ‘pop,’ or do you want poop?”
I look at the word she is pointing at and I have no idea what it means, either.
“I’m not sure. Maybe you better get both,’’ I tell my wife. “And, while you’re at the store, I believe we need mayonnaise and tuna fish, too. Get four cans.”
An American tragedy
The government reports that millions of dollars get lost each year because of illegible handwriting on envelope addresses. These lost letters, many with checks, cash and money orders in them, just go to the dead letter file of the Post Office because no one can read the handwriting.
As a public service, I would like the U.S. Postal Service to know that all those letters, lost with money in them, are mine and I have the cursive handwriting to prove it.
— Myron Kukla