President Obama has nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to be the new Treasury Secretary. That has stirred some controversy. But what I worry about is his signature, which will go on all currency issues during his time in office:
When I was in grade school, penmanship kept me off of the honor roll. Today most schools have not only dropped penmanship, they do not even teach cursive writing anymore
Most states don’t require children to learn cursive writing anymore. Some 46 states have adopted the Common Core Standards, a set of educational guidelines that do not require cursive writing as part of a school’s curriculum. The state of Indiana recently announced it would drop a district requirement to teach cursive writing as of this fall. Instead, students must be able to type on keyboards.
Technology has pushed cursive writing off the agenda of many school systems across the country. As a result, Handwriting Without Tears founder Jan Olsen sees more sloppy handwriting in schools today.
“If you stop teaching handwriting in the second grade, you’re going to have a generation of people who write like second graders,” says Olsen, whose company teaches a clean and simple style of cursive that avoids the fancy curls and swirls of old-fashioned script. . . .
“Handwritten documents convey important cultural information about authors,” says Davis Schneiderman, novelist and chair of the English Department at Lake Forest College. “These documents also suggest an authenticity that electronically produced documents do not. The Declaration is an index of its time as well as clue to the physicality of its signers. Imagine ‘John Hancock’ typed in an 18-point Times New Roman font. The proud fury behind his oversized signature would be lost.” . . .
Granted, most workplaces are more likely to be dominated by computers and technology than pens and pencils and handwritten thank you notes. Its makes sense that computers are the go-to resource for researching and writing papers and other homework assignments.
And some writing experts aren’t worried about children not being able to read the original Declaration of Independence or sign their names in cursive. Historical documents can be reprinted in print form and children can be taught to sign their names in cursive for legal documents and birthday cards.
Yet teens who can’t write legibly — multimillionaire teen celebrities aside — do suffer. Even though many children use computers to write papers at home, most writing done within the school walls is still done by hand. (The country’s ongoing economic problems won’t likely add many computers to our nation’s public school classrooms in the next few years.)
“Without it [cursive handwriting] you lose the sense of having your thought process through your hand movements to create your language and thoughts to someone else,” says Michael Sull, a master penman in Spencerian script; past president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting; and author of four books on handwriting including, “American Cursive Handwriting,” which was released last month. “There is a great loss in the progress that could be made with children fostering their motor skill development, literacy training and concepts of communication.”
Should we just let cursive go, like cuneiform, in our new word-processing information environment? Shouldn’t we at least teach kids to, you know, sign their names, something that credit cards and legal documents still require?