THAT'S LAUDERDALE

Cursive writing is more than a blip on the screen

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMarch 25, 2014 

STAFF ILLUSTRATION

Since children don't have to learn cursive writing anymore, maybe they can teach the rest of us how to type with our thumbs and drive with our knees.

Cursive writing was removed from the state of South Carolina's classroom requirements in 2008. It sounds horrible, but apparently the world has not fallen apart. We still have "Duck Dynasty" and "Southern Charm."

Word about the change has just reached the ink wells of our state legislature, where a bill has been introduced to force public schools to teach students cursive writing by fifth grade.

If legislatures and Congress would leave teaching to people who actually work in classrooms, we might not have this problem.

Teachers are so busy with standardized tests, not to mention bullying, obesity and social services, that they don't have time for cursive writing. It's not on the tests -- which are mandated by politicians.

Personally, I use cursive writing every day. And even though I also use a smartphone, iPad, laptop, desktop and digital recorder, I'm proud to have spots on my pockets to prove I remain an ink-stained wretch.

Cursive writing is not the problem. The problem is reading cursive writing, even my own. I would quit cursive writing tomorrow, and be like today's ignoramuses who will apparently sign their names with an "X," if someone would give me a program that translates recorded conversations into text.

Legislators who think children learn by gripping fat pencils and staying between the lines on Blue Horse paper tablets don't know what's about to hit them. Computer tablets are the new pacifier. Babies who can't yet talk or walk are spending 12 hours a day on their iPads. They'll need lead and ink as much as my generation needed mules and Victrolas.

But what they are going to need to do is slow down.

They're going to yearn to feel the personal touch that only a handwritten note conveys.

A friend recently showed me a note from David McCullough, whose Pulitzer Prizes for the biographies "Truman" and "John Adams" helped him win the Presidential Medal of Freedom. My friend had written to him about Civil War characters and tactics. And McCullough mailed back a long, personal response, with pen and ink, in cursive writing. The front of the card featured one of his watercolors.

That note sits in a place of prominence.

Do you think an email or txt msg means the same?

No.

And to think that McCullough, a lowly English major, became one of America's most accomplished and beloved figures with such a worthless degree, a typewriter, and personal notes.

And to think that our own Pat Conroy of Beaufort has achieved immortality scratching out musical words in cursive writing, one legal pad at a time.

No, the importance of cursive writing can't be erased. Its value to the world is only beginning.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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