I need to learn cursive

Last spring, Signe, a childhood friend of the family, convinced my daughter, Sarah, to bring her to my office after a day of third grade instruction at Jolley Elementary.

Typically, when Signe and her brother, Caden, stop by the office, it is simply a casual visit which usually includes lounging in my office chair to watch a bit of Spongebob on the office TV, or snacking on whatever treats I might have handy near my desk.

This visit, it turns out, was anything but typical. She was on a mission to pass on a bit of newfound knowledge.

Signe placed a blank sheet of paper in front of me, and using a tone of voice I have long grown accustomed to (she can be bossy at times) simply said, “Write your name.”

I complied by scrawling my signature. She replied by rolling her eyes, and quickly getting to work.

It had been an exciting week for Signe and her classmates. They were learning to communicate in a new way that demanded more than just punching on a computer keyboard or drawing straight lines on paper.

They were learning cursive.

Signe sat at a table in my office and ended up filling three full pages of my yellow legal pad with examples of how I should write each letter of the alphabet, in both capital and lower case. Her version includes topping each “i” with a heart. I hope she doesn’t mind if I continue to use a simple dot.

I’ve saved each page. They still sit in a special place, in a quiet shelf near my desk, where I know they will not be disturbed by the layer of clutter that usually builds up in my workspace each day.

I can’t part with them because I remember the look on her face when she presented them to me; she was grinning, a bit wild-eyed, happy to show that she had mastered something new.

And most importantly, she can do it better than me.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Paulson, introduced my classmates and me to the Palmer Method. We were exposed to it every day, for unlike previous years, the top of the big slate chalkboard in her room wasn’t lined with the alphabet in big block letters.

Each letter was written in cursive. We learned first by simply tracing the letters in our workbooks. Then, with nothing to guide us, we had to write “solo,” trying our best to master each curve and dimension until eventually it all became second nature.

News articles in recent years have focused on whether schools should simply stop teaching what some believe to be an archaic way to communicate in this day and age of computers, text messaging and the like.

These articles are authored by reporters like me who, as a youngster, was taught this fine art only to abuse it greatly with hen-scratched note taking during interviews, press conferences and the like.

Perhaps technology isn’t the problem. Maybe cursive gets a bad wrap because so many of us (I plead guilty) simply get lazy or choose to forget what we once learned so we may merrily scribble undecipherable notes to our spouses and co-workers.

I’m glad to see that technology hasn’t pushed the teaching of cursive out of our schools. At least not yet. It means a tradition is continuing; it means a milestone experienced by generations of children, in an era of constant change, remains intact.

My desk drawers are filled with a variety of cards and letters that have been mailed to me over the years. Nearly every one of them contains a message, written by the sender, in his or her personal handwriting.

That’s one of the reasons I’m still keeping them. How can you throw out any sort of correspondence that contains such a personal touch?

That, to me, is the number one reason that kids should always learn cursive.

Look closely at the upper right corner of this practice sheet created for me by a Miss Signe Layne West and you’ll see she’s left me an assignment: “For Dave. P.S. you need to learn cursive.”

Excuse me. I’m having difficulty mastering that loop on top of a capital D. It’s time to practice.


1 Response to “I need to learn cursive”

  1. September 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Whatever tools we use to communicate, what matters is that look you saw in Signe’s eyes, that wild-eyed look of mastery. Beautiful image.

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