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Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Elizabeth Browning, Pearl Buck, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ernest Hemingway, and Maya Angelou are some of our beloved men and women of letters. A “Man of Letters” is primarily concerned with literary and scholarly arts, the beauty of the written word and the value of humanism.

The concept of Humanism relates not just to the study of Humanities, but relates to any system or way in thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity predominate in philosophy or behavior.

Aha! Now you know why an Empathy Queen is interested!

Beyond all the brilliance in hand-written journals and diaries that capture our history and imagination, from Anne Frank to slavery, is the ability to capture great thought in the written word. Beautiful and eloquent thoughts have been shared in one’s own handwriting.

What a loss to realize that our children cannot read these works in their original form!

My heartfelt note and birthday wishes could not be read by my teenage recipient and that is when I realized how we have cheated this generation by giving up on Cursive writing. It is no longer taught in schools or part of educational curriculum. Spelling and grammar are not understood, nor appreciated, as they can be electronically corrected.

How can we transmit all of our history in handwritten love letters and documents of citizenship? Letters home have been a tradition of summer camp and kept as treasures, now relegated to relics of the last century. Papers and letters, censored or delivered in war torn areas by Red Cross delegations, speak of our greatest fears, loves, desires, horrors and history. Elie Wiesel wrote “Night” as his diary to remind us of what should never happen again. Ship manifests and hand-written applications filled Ellis Island to bring our descendants to America and record their personal effects, family members and birthdays. The Declaration of Independence and the signatures of our Founding Fathers cannot be read by our children.

Our humanity is in our hands and the way we brushstroke the letters of our signatures. Graphology provides us with clues to a writer’s character and personality when we can study the actual handwriting of an individual.

The beauty of linguistics and communication, a heartfelt note, a treasured thank you, Grandma’s well-kept recipes are part of our individual and family histories. The lost art of reading and writing cursive limits the notions of beauty and loyalty we can share and appreciate with our children.

Our signatures are bold, notable, remarkable and a lasting imprint; but only if we can read them.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/a-lost-art/
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15 Comments

  1. So very true. I learned cursive when I was in school but I really am a little dismayed that they no longer teach it. Yes, we can still read what the young people have written but it has lost the ‘flair’. I hand write so many things and hand write a lot of my writing before transferring it to the keyboard. So much has been lost in the pursuit of ‘progression’.

    • Oh, come on: how many people read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, or the New Testament in Aramaic? Languages change with time, and so does handwriting — and there are several forms thereof, most of them far better than “Cursive”. What we call “Cursive” today is actually Palmer-Method script, invented in 1852 precisely for the purpose of getting a monopoly on teaching materials for the developing public school system. Before then, our great state papers were written in a form called Copperplate. The Mayflower Compact was written in Italic. Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written in English Secretary. All these documents are perfectly readable today. “Cursive”, on the other hand, has a nasty tendency to degenerate into that illegible scribble for which doctors are so notorious (but unfortunately not alone), which has caused *thousands of deaths* from “medical error”; just ask any nurse or pharmacist. So yes, certainly, teach penmanship in the schools — but for heaven’s sake, choose a better form than this! If only for the lives it has cost us, “Cursive” deserves to die.

      • Wow! This topic has ignited quite a debate.

        Cursive and Penmanship can be an art form, like calligraphy. The ability of generations to read historical documents in original form, or simply a handwritten letter, is being lost. Errors with prescriptions can be deadly but there are advocates for that as well, human error can be involved in stating the name of the medication not merely a misreading of the handwriting.

      • I was not out to start a debate on this. I merely expressed my view that cursive writing is a dying art form and extremely beautiful. Since I am Australian, I learned a different style to that taught in the U.S. however it was still flowing and pretty. Yes, it can still be read. Yes, what is taught today can still be read. However since I am a person that enjoys things of beauty I am a little disappointed in the way that technology is changing those things.

      • I agree with you Suz. Whether you call it cursive, penmanship, or handwriting, to me it is a lost art– or certainly on its way to being so.

  2. Hi there, I love this post! I recently read an article in the NY Times that quoted some of the research that’s been done on the benefits of writing by hand and cursive in particular to the learning brain.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?_r=0
    Personally, I would be lost without a pen and a blank page, so many hours of comfort, thought, problem-solving, creating, and enjoying in the act of writing, and living through writing. I’m sure you know what I am talking about. Thanks for reminding me of this most precious hand-brain connection.
    Phyllis

    • Hi Phyllis,

      Thank you for including the link as I would love to see the article and learn about the science behind writing by hand. There is joy in a brand new journal, a pen that feels good in your hand, and the ability to communicate anytime and anywhere.

      Your comment is gratefully appreciated and I am truly flattered by your words. Best!!

    • Regarding the NY TIMES article —

      The closest that the NEW YORK TIMES article approached to giving a reason for cursive was in noting that some stroke survivors retain the ability to read cursive but lose the ability to read typefonts. The NY TIMES writer, Maria Konnikova, “forgot” to emphasize that, just as often in strokes and other brain injuries, the ability to read cursive is lost, but the reading of type and/or print-writing is preserved.

      Ms. Konnikova also ignored all research that discomfits the cheerleaders for cursive. It turns out (sources below) that:

      • legible cursive writing averages no faster than print-writing of equal or greater legibility, [1]

      • cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or other language use of students who have dyslexia and/or dysgraphia, [2]

      and:

      • the fastest, clearest handwriters are neither the “print”-writers nor the cursive writers. Highest speed and legibility are attained by those who join only some letters, not all of them—making the simplest joins, omitting the rest, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. [3, 4]

      Why — here, as elsewhere throughout the media’s and legislatures’ discussions of handwriting — do studies which are headlined as supporting cursive actually say something different when one finds and reads the originals? Why does Ms. Konnikova, science writer, one-sidedly ignore whatever research on handwriting is not so easily obscured?

      SOURCES:

      [1] Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
      Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015

      [2] “Does cursive handwriting have an impact on the reading and spelling performance of children with dyslexic dysgraphia: A quasi-experimental study.” Authors: Lorene Ann Nalpon & Noel Kok Hwee Chia — URL: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/234451547_Does_cursive_handwriting_have_an_impact_on_the_reading_and_spelling_performance_of_children_with_dyslexic_dysgraphia_A_quasi-experimental_study

      [3] Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

      [4] Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
      JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

      Yours for better letters,

      Kate Gladstone
      DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
      CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
      http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

      • Dear Kate,
        Your passion for your topic is evident. While I am most appreciative of your research, my “cheerleading” for cursive began when I realized that my niece could not read a birthday card that I had given her. The documentation my grandparents kept when they came to America is all in cursive. Our family history is in cursive; the recipes, stories and letters from grandparents and great-grandparents are a gift. The knowledge, introspection, empathy, development, loyalty and love to be gained by the ability of this generation to read cursive exceeds measurable intelligence.
        Best of luck with your work and efforts ~

        • kategladstone
        • Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:08 am
        • Permalink

        Reading cursive matters, indeed — precisely for reasons you face — did you know that even quite young children can be taught to read cursive, years before anyone would ask them to write the same way? Reading cursive can (and should) be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Today, there’s even an iPad app to teach how: named “Read Cursive — http://appstore.com/readcursive —. please see the notes below, and ask yourself: why not make sure to teach children to _read_ cursive, along with teaching other vital skills — such as some handwriting style that’s actually typical of effective handwriters?

        Here are family’s experiences with “Read Cursive,” described by the mother of a seven-year-old and four-year-old:

        “I just downloaded and tried out the Read Cursive app for the iPad. Very clever! I especially like that it shows a variety of cursive styles, allowing students to see the wide range of scripts they might encounter. I may even buy the story pack in order to reinforce my son’s cursive comprehension; his grandmas have very legible cursive, but that’s hardly the case with the majority of the population in this day and age. … After watching my son play around with it, my four year old daughter insisted I download it to her iPad, as well. Now *both* of them can recognize cursive letters, even though she can’t quite read, yet. She was rather upset when I, as she put it, ‘made her stop learning’ for dinner time. … My children will be able to read the historical documents everyone seems so worried about, even if they won’t be writing with the same style.” — Celeste Wetzel, Warrenton, Virginia: June 9, 2014

      • Thank you for your shared observation and example.

        That is a wonderful opportunity to share it with one’s child. The technology worked well for her but wouldn’t it be great for all children to have this opportunity. A school penmanship class is part of preparing our children for the future. Many classes and subjects have had to go by the wayside due to budget cuts and changing times. The teaching of handwriting can only enhance the methods of communication among us.

      • Hi Kate,
        Wow, I did not know there was a World Handwriting Contest, and I am totally a fan of, and have done, a handwriting make-over of my own. I wasn’t aware of any part of the NY Times articles talking about speed and legibility. But in any case, I simply love the experience and sensation of hand writing and appreciate your educative comments on the subject.
        Phyllis

        • kategladstone
        • Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:52 am
        • Permalink

        Thanks,Phyllis! You might find it hard to believe how much flak I get for pointing out when research on handwriting has been misquoted — which is done surprisingly often, in the media and even in the legislature (in several states, bills to mandate cursive in the school system have been introduced or supported by legislators misrepresenting research — presumably under oath — as part of their testimony to fellow legislators. Details are available on request.)

        What’s even more disturbing (than misrepresentations made in the legislators or in the media) is the extent to which educators join in and encourage such behavior. At one handwriting-themed education conference I attended, when an audience member asked a researcher if her research supports cursive — and the researcher noted that it doesn’t — the audience member who’d asked the question immediately snapped back, “Well, then, ma’am, you’d better go back and change your research results until they DO [support cursive]!” … and at least four other audience members CHEERED.

        It’s strange to me to see how very often the dedicated proponents of cursive (including at least one cursive lobby group that talks to legislators and teachers) point on the one hand that cursive’s important so you can read original historical documents and know exactly what the historical documents say … yet on the other hand, many of them do not expect that anyone out there will bother to look up original _research_ documents on handwriting, read _those_,, and know exactly what _these_ documents say. Do you have any explanation for such behavior, on the part of those who indulge in such behavior in the name of cursive?

        • kategladstone
        • Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:56 am
        • Permalink

        By the way … Phyllis, I’d love to see your handwriting makeover. So, I think, would many of your other readers. Perhaps you could post a “before/after” pair of photos, maybe with some details about your “handwriting autobiography”: what has influenced your handwriting over the years (in school, in your teen years, your adulthood), why and how you decided to “make over” your handwriting, and what tools/techniques/resources you used to accomplish this.

      • I am glad you have found a new prompt for discourse on this topic among you.


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