Via the NCTE Inbox, I came across this Time magazine article, “Mourning the Death of Handwriting.” It’s pretty much the same discussion about handwriting that I’ve posted about in the past: isn’t it a shame that handwriting is dying, though there is no compelling reason as to why this really that bad of a thing.
But there are two twists. First, the article’s author, Claire Suddath, actually quotes pretty much the only “real” expert on handwriting I know, Tamara Thornton, who wrote a fantastic book called Handwriting in America: A Cultural History. Thornton’s theory about the “death” of handwriting is more tied to the role of standardized testing than increased computer use. “If something isn’t on a test,” she said, “it’s viewed as a luxury.” She has a point.
Second, the article once again highlights the difficulty in trying to figure out just when exactly handwriting “died.” My parents were both born in the 1940s, and my mother writes with a sort of combination of cursive and print, while my father’s handwriting is print, and one that looks like it was heavily influenced by something like an engineering or drafting class he took. My wife and I were both born in the 1960s; Annette’s handwriting is neat and cursive, and my handwriting is awful. We and pretty much everyone else in our generation were formally taught handwriting, but it seems like I and everyone else I know prints. The article’s author, Suddath, interviews her third grade teacher (Suddath said she was in the third grade in 1990) who taught her handwriting and who implies that Suddath’s was pretty much the last generation for whom cursive was a “rite of passage.” My son, born in the late 1990s, has awful handwriting, but he was most definitely taught cursive and I do recall the third and fourth graders seeing writing in cursive as a “grown-up” thing to do.
Anyway, my point is it seems like handwriting has been waning and lost on the next generation for a long time now. But once again, as someone who has never had the coordination (left-handedness, mostly), skill, or patience to write– even print!– neatly, I welcome the ever-returning end of handwriting.