Sir, more than kisses,
letters mingle souls;
for, thus friends absent speak.
-John Donne, poet
Cursive as we know it, or almost, anyway, goes back to the 17th century, but wasn’t standardized as a fast way of writing correspondence until the 18th century. Starting in the middle of the 19th century, schools began teaching cursive.
This year, however, Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii announced outright that cursive is no longer required. It’s optional. Also this year, 44 states adopted the Common Core State Standards, which do not include cursive. At all.
Of course, this is a sign that computers are now fully integrated into curricula, and of the expectation that students be taught to keyboard so all work will be submitted as a printed document. It seems obvious that no one will hand-write in the future.
This is another one of those developments that makes me wonder how much we’ve really gained, even as technology makes our lives so much easier.
A person’s handwriting is their hallmark, their personal mark, unique to them just like an individual snowflake is one of a kind. It’s a reminder that they existed, thought, felt, acted.
I’ve kept some things in my mother’s handwriting (at left): a few cards she signed, some letters and notes, a newspaper clipping she annotated. It’s always a thrill to see her handwriting, to know that she wrote this when she was alive.
Seeing a computer-generated note or caption just doesn’t have the same frisson.
Even though snail mail is rare today, it’s still fun to see an envelope addressed in a familiar hand, to open it and find a note or even –really! — a fully-handwritten letter.
I have an entire box of letters my father sent home from the Korean War in 1953. I always hold them in my hands carefully and with reverence, imagining him sitting at a desk with a fountain pen, writing home every day. And then, the excitement when my mother saw the envelope in our mailbox, her opening it and reading it.
If not handwritten cards and letters, what artifacts of yours will your children treasure? What will give them the same feeling of connection?