Over the past couple of decades, there has been a steep and swift decline in the quality of our nation's handwriting, especially that of our youth. The reason is obvious -- technology and typing are "in," penning just about anything by hand is "out." Over 40 states in the U.S. no longer have a cursive handwriting requirement in schools, and although a handwritten essay is part of the SAT it's clear to see that the trend away from handwriting is going to continue. As more and more things can be done electronically, cursive -- and even printing to some degree -- are going by the wayside. The question is: Is this really a bad thing?
It sure seems that way to many of those who have grown up with it. There is an art, an intrinsic beauty to cursive writing. Just as many still resist purchasing a Kindle because they like to hold a physical book in their hands and smell those worn, yellowed pages, elder generations don't want our population to lose that aspect of our culture, that element of our personality. Yes -- just about anything in today's world can be typed rather than handwritten -- but should it be?
The problem is one of time. If there were 100 hours in a day, if we lived to be 500 years old and we spent our first 100 of those in school, it might be a different story. We sometimes barely have time to get a basic essay done to meet the teacher's deadline. Even if the skill was not indispensable, there would be time to learn and practice cursive just as we spend time in the classroom learning about times in history that do not directly affect us (although, of course, their lessons impact us profoundly) or engaging in certain artistic endeavors that, even if not specifically applied to a future career, still add to the human experience and enrich our lives and our souls.
But we don't have all the time in the world. The truth is that the human bank of knowledge is growing rapidly, and when faced with the Herculean task of conveying a sufficient portion of this information to our children, do we really have the luxury of spending so much time (roughly an hour a week in second and/or third grade -- a pretty significant chunk) instructing students on a skill that is practically useless?
Cursive's supporters will argue that the act of handwriting does more than just convey information. There are those who say that being a more active participant in the process of written communication increases awareness about what it is exactly that the writer is saying, or that being more physically connected opens up the mind creatively to a greater extent.
However, this is a desperate argument. It's the voice of a generation that wants things to stay the same, that is intolerant of the high-tech and the newfangled. The fact is that tapping away at keys on a keyboard is not, at its core, all that different from dragging a pencil across a page. While it's possible that there may be certain small benefits we are losing by not writing in cursive, there are plenty more advantages -- speed, efficiency, versatility, dexterity, and so on. To refuse to accept that this is the new way of the world is to live in the past, and to hinder and impede future progress.
So yes, sadly for some, handwriting is on the way out. It's possible that, within the next ten years or so, even all signatures will have become electronic ones. On the upside, it's certainly going to make that clipped autograph you've been hanging onto all the more valuable.