Valuing diversity of opinion, I’m pleased to have among my regular blogging contacts a woman and an educator. Jennifer Carey is both those things and I liked her recent blog post offering the InfoGraphic, “A Few Grammar Mistakes That Can Make You Look Silly”. I thought that using a cultural approach was very good because grammar has never been a popular school subject, even in my day. (I went to high school in the early 1950’s!) It seems to me that good grammar is in decline these days, but Jennifer rightfully pointed out that the record has long been spotty, citing some very bad grammar found in Civil War letters.
Highlighting that bad grammar can make one seem not just silly but socially inferior should be a real motivator. Isn’t it remarkable how difficult it is to change adult habits? Little wonder then that when an illiterate adult finally learns to read and write, it makes headlines.
I thought about Jennifer’s grammar post when I saw an AP News article in today’s Joplin Globe about many schools abandoning the teaching of cursive writing, mostly under pressure from mandatory testing under government laws like NCLB. The thought that cursive writing might be going extinct gives me a sense of loss similar to what I felt about grammar. I mean, what if one of these solar flares takes out the whole electric grid and keyboards don’t work any more? Well, never mind – cursive writing will be the least of our problems if that happens.
Cursive is as much a part of me as keyboarding – it is something I simply take for granted. But of course anyone in my generation will recall that a great deal of emphasis was placed on it. It was called “penmanship”, a term now possibly considered misogynistic and seemingly destined for the vocabulary boneyard.
The AP news article noted that one neuroscience researcher thinks that handwriting seems to promote “important brain activity”. I think that should be pursued. From my own experience I can tell you that there’s something to handwriting analysis as it relates to personality and brain development. I watched my sons’ handwriting evolve throughout their lives, both in school and afterwards, and I could perceive a clear correlation between their handwriting and their growth in knowledge, assertiveness and maturity. Not only that, when I urged them to practice getting more self-assurance into their signatures it seemed to produce more self assurance in them. I do believe that feed-back loop exists, strange as it may seem.
I suggest that we not abandon cursive before we better understand its intrinsic value for self-expression, thought-process and pedagogical effects. There seems to be considerable agreement that NCLB was a failure and I hope it’s buried quickly. If so maybe that will take the pressure off and cursive writing can be saved.