Posted by : Adam Edelstein Saturday, December 14, 2013

As soon as the last plate of Thanksgiving turkey was cleared from the table it seemed the holiday cards began to arrive in my mailbox. Call me a dinosaur, but I still love writing and receiving Christmas cards- and I am not talking about the electronic kind. Besides looking at the beautiful pictures and sparkly scenes on the cards, I thoroughly enjoy reading the little notes and greetings that my friends and family write inside. I often find myself admiring, in addition to their words, the writers' beautiful or unique cursive handwriting.

I've been a fan of the art of cursive handwriting for as long as I can remember. I guess the seed was planted back in Catholic grade school when "Handwriting" was taught as an actual subject and we received a grade for it on our report cards. I was never an excellent handwriter (my grades were usually somewhere in the 80s), but I would aspire to have handwriting like some of the others in my class who garnered 90s in handwriting on their report cards or even won the coveted "Penmanship Award" at the end of the school year (dare to dream!). In my sharp crazy memory, I can still remember who those stellar handwriters were.

Every September when we would get our new text books for the year, we would receive a brand new Penmanship book. Along with that, we would have to purchase a "Palmer Method" pen. The pen, which came in yellow, red, black or blue, had a large bump around its center where students would learn to hold their fingers, strategically placed, to produce beautiful writing. In the books, we students would trace different letters and then connect them before writing the same words ourselves freestyle on empty lines below. If we "didn't get it," and still wrote the words sloppily, we might have to take out a sheet of loose leaf paper and write a whole page or two of the words or letters we had trouble mastering that night for homework. I remember having trouble with the letters z, k and f and capitals Q and X. But I practiced to score those 80s!

Fast forward some years and I remember sitting with my own children, helping them master the same handwriting skills and praising them when they took extra care to write their homework assignments neatly. I remember they felt so "grown up" to finally be in a grade that required them to write like their parents and older siblings or cousins instead of printing like those in the younger grades do. So, keeping all this in mind, it would come as no surprise to find out how devastated I was when over 40 states decided not that long ago to drop teaching cursive writing from the required core curriculum and replace it with keyboarding. According to my understanding, it is now the individual school districts that decide if they do or don't want to teach cursive handwriting. In other words, teaching cursive handwriting has become an option.

I understand that computers are taking over everything and we can sign banking, real estate and all legal papers electronically these days. But what about when we scribble a signed absence or lateness note to our child's teacher? Sign a permission slip for a Scout's field trip? Sit in a doctor's office signing our life away before getting treatment? We have to do all of this on our computers in the future?

If children do not learn to write and read cursive handwriting, how will they read the original documents on which our country was founded (not a printed version) or any primary historical sources or diaries in museums or historical sites? What about a simple letter from grandmom or an uncle in the service? What if a computer goes down while important papers are being signed? Or will mail carriers of the future be required to learn Handwriting as a second language?

Getting taught handwriting is a discipline, a skill we keep for a lifetime. Some may say learning to recite poetry or mastering algebra or calculus problems won't actually be useful in the course of life, but all together, these things orchestrate a good, solid education. Once a student has these skills in their bag of tricks, their foundation, they can blossom in many other ways educationally and later, professionally. In addition to teaching eye-hand coordination, mastering handwriting shows refinement and the ability to communicate successfully in a global world with or without a computer keyboard. Of course mastering keyboarding is essential and a necessary skill, but why can't children be taught both, as they have been in the last ten years or more? If it isn't broke, why fix it?

Last week I covered a Christmas party that the Knights of Columbus hosted for Religious Sisters in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. After snapping some photos, I was going to get the names of the photo subjects, but the music was playing and it was noisy. Afraid I wouldn't hear well and misspell names, I passed my notepad and pen around and let the Sisters write their own names. When I was back at the office, writing my photo captions, one of the things I was struck by, was how lovely each and every one of the Sisters' handwriting was. I didn't have to wonder if a letter was an "o" or an "a" or a "v" or a "u." Their writing was Palmer Method Perfect.

"No wonder," I thought. "The Sisters are the ones who taught so many of us how to write clearly and neatly." A dying art? I don't think so. I like to think of it as the hallmark of a civilized, educated society. Although just about everything we do is generated through our computers, I do believe there's still a time and place for cursive. Call me old fashioned, but I believe we can still have the best of both worlds.

I know resources are tight and all kinds of programs, even art and music, are being cut from core curriculums in schools to meet budgets. I realize students use iPads and laptops instead of pens and notebooks. I try to stay with the times so I get all that. But I also get those 123 christmas cards, some that even have letters enclosed, in the mail. I can't help but think how intimate and personal they are when they have handwritten notes in them and how much I would miss that human touch if they were merely churned out by a computer printer. Continued...

I can visualize my brothers' and sisters' handwriting with closed eyes, as well as my husband's my children's, my parents', my friends' and even some of my co-workers'. As you know from people's signatures, our cursive handwriting is our own, unique to only us. I would hate to think that in one holiday season in the future that all of my cards will be waiting to be opened in e-mails on my computer instead of delivered to the mailbox on my front porch.

When I thought about this subject a week or so ago, I quickly polled by Facebook friends to hear their thoughts. Maybe we are all dinosaurs, but like me, not one person thought cutting cursive from core curriculum had any merit. Everyone agreed that children should still be taught cursive handwriting.

If we allow computer generated cards to replace the handwritten oldie but goodie snail-mail type, who knows, in years to come if we may have to enjoy a virtual Christmas tree, stockings hung on the computer screen with care and our grandchildren skyping with Santa rather than visiting him at the local mall or firehouse. Let's stop this tech slippery slope before it begins and refuse to let go of the human, personalized touch- keep the cursive in Christmas (and every season)!

Readers can e-mail Peg DeGrassa at pdegrassa@delconewsnetwork.com or write her c/o DCNN, 1914 Parker Ave., Holmes, PA 19043.

As soon as the last plate of Thanksgiving turkey was cleared from the table it seemed the holiday cards began to arrive in my mailbox. Call me a dinosaur, but I still love writing and receiving Christmas cards- and I am not talking about the electronic kind. Besides looking at the beautiful pictures and sparkly scenes on the cards, I thoroughly enjoy reading the little notes and greetings that my friends and family write inside. I often find myself admiring, in addition to their words, the writers' beautiful or unique cursive handwriting.

I've been a fan of the art of cursive handwriting for as long as I can remember. I guess the seed was planted back in Catholic grade school when "Handwriting" was taught as an actual subject and we received a grade for it on our report cards. I was never an excellent handwriter (my grades were usually somewhere in the 80s), but I would aspire to have handwriting like some of the others in my class who garnered 90s in handwriting on their report cards or even won the coveted "Penmanship Award" at the end of the school year (dare to dream!). In my sharp crazy memory, I can still remember who those stellar handwriters were.

Every September when we would get our new text books for the year, we would receive a brand new Penmanship book. Along with that, we would have to purchase a "Palmer Method" pen. The pen, which came in yellow, red, black or blue, had a large bump around its center where students would learn to hold their fingers, strategically placed, to produce beautiful writing. In the books, we students would trace different letters and then connect them before writing the same words ourselves freestyle on empty lines below. If we "didn't get it," and still wrote the words sloppily, we might have to take out a sheet of loose leaf paper and write a whole page or two of the words or letters we had trouble mastering that night for homework. I remember having trouble with the letters z, k and f and capitals Q and X. But I practiced to score those 80s!

Fast forward some years and I remember sitting with my own children, helping them master the same handwriting skills and praising them when they took extra care to write their homework assignments neatly. I remember they felt so "grown up" to finally be in a grade that required them to write like their parents and older siblings or cousins instead of printing like those in the younger grades do. So, keeping all this in mind, it would come as no surprise to find out how devastated I was when over 40 states decided not that long ago to drop teaching cursive writing from the required core curriculum and replace it with keyboarding. According to my understanding, it is now the individual school districts that decide if they do or don't want to teach cursive handwriting. In other words, teaching cursive handwriting has become an option.

I understand that computers are taking over everything and we can sign banking, real estate and all legal papers electronically these days. But what about when we scribble a signed absence or lateness note to our child's teacher? Sign a permission slip for a Scout's field trip? Sit in a doctor's office signing our life away before getting treatment? We have to do all of this on our computers in the future?

If children do not learn to write and read cursive handwriting, how will they read the original documents on which our country was founded (not a printed version) or any primary historical sources or diaries in museums or historical sites? What about a simple letter from grandmom or an uncle in the service? What if a computer goes down while important papers are being signed? Or will mail carriers of the future be required to learn Handwriting as a second language?

Getting taught handwriting is a discipline, a skill we keep for a lifetime. Some may say learning to recite poetry or mastering algebra or calculus problems won't actually be useful in the course of life, but all together, these things orchestrate a good, solid education. Once a student has these skills in their bag of tricks, their foundation, they can blossom in many other ways educationally and later, professionally. In addition to teaching eye-hand coordination, mastering handwriting shows refinement and the ability to communicate successfully in a global world with or without a computer keyboard. Of course mastering keyboarding is essential and a necessary skill, but why can't children be taught both, as they have been in the last ten years or more? If it isn't broke, why fix it?

Last week I covered a Christmas party that the Knights of Columbus hosted for Religious Sisters in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. After snapping some photos, I was going to get the names of the photo subjects, but the music was playing and it was noisy. Afraid I wouldn't hear well and misspell names, I passed my notepad and pen around and let the Sisters write their own names. When I was back at the office, writing my photo captions, one of the things I was struck by, was how lovely each and every one of the Sisters' handwriting was. I didn't have to wonder if a letter was an "o" or an "a" or a "v" or a "u." Their writing was Palmer Method Perfect.

"No wonder," I thought. "The Sisters are the ones who taught so many of us how to write clearly and neatly." A dying art? I don't think so. I like to think of it as the hallmark of a civilized, educated society. Although just about everything we do is generated through our computers, I do believe there's still a time and place for cursive. Call me old fashioned, but I believe we can still have the best of both worlds.

I know resources are tight and all kinds of programs, even art and music, are being cut from core curriculums in schools to meet budgets. I realize students use iPads and laptops instead of pens and notebooks. I try to stay with the times so I get all that. But I also get those beautiful Christmas cards, some that even have letters enclosed, in the mail. I can't help but think how intimate and personal they are when they have handwritten notes in them and how much I would miss that human touch if they were merely churned out by a computer printer.

I can visualize my brothers' and sisters' handwriting with closed eyes, as well as my husband's my children's, my parents', my friends' and even some of my co-workers'. As you know from people's signatures, our cursive handwriting is our own, unique to only us. I would hate to think that in one holiday season in the future that all of my cards will be waiting to be opened in e-mails on my computer instead of delivered to the mailbox on my front porch.

When I thought about this subject a week or so ago, I quickly polled by Facebook friends to hear their thoughts. Maybe we are all dinosaurs, but like me, not one person thought cutting cursive from core curriculum had any merit. Everyone agreed that children should still be taught cursive handwriting.

If we allow computer generated cards to replace the handwritten oldie but goodie snail-mail type, who knows, in years to come if we may have to enjoy a virtual Christmas tree, stockings hung on the computer screen with care and our grandchildren skyping with Santa rather than visiting him at the local mall or firehouse. Let's stop this tech slippery slope before it begins and refuse to let go of the human, personalized touch- keep the cursive in Christmas (and every season)!

Readers can e-mail Peg DeGrassa at pdegrassa@delconewsnetwork.com or write her c/o DCNN, 1914 Parker Ave., Holmes, PA 19043.

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