Many things change over time and some things that were commonplace a decade, or more, ago become much less so. Often this is due to progress and the lack of need for continuing the practice. Often these changes in routine over long periods of time go unnoticed and unmissed. Sometimes, though, they strike us as a lost art.
For me, longhand or cursive as it was called, is just such an art. I still write in cursive whenever I write anything out by hand, although I have modified some of the letters over time, usually inserting a printed version of a particular letter into otherwise continuous cursive.
By the time I was in fifth grade, all of my writing was in cursive. I never even thought of printing unless directed to do so. My handwriting is an identifiable part of me. It’s all my own — no one’s looks the same, much like my individual sense of style.
I looked forward with excitement to the time Emerald would learn to write in cursive. I thought she would enjoy making all those curly-Q letters, just like I did when I was young.
I should’ve known change was afoot when I was chastised by her second grade teacher for teaching some of the letters to her early. “I wish parents wouldn’t do that. They’re not ready,” she said. Not ready???? She had been printing her letters for years by that point. What else did she need to know to be ready? I don’t think I asked that question, but I remember being very surprised.
As I learned a year later, cursive has been demoted from a major focus of the middle-elementary years, as it was in my day, to a mere blip in our children’s education. In third grade, Emerald was introduced to cursive. She was taught how to make her letters, but that was the end of it. She wasn’t asked to practice it, over and over. She wasn’t encouraged to use it. She and her classmates have gone back to printing for all of their school work. In fact, it’s sort of a “hey look what I can do” moment for her when she thinks about cursive letters, now that she’s in the fifth grade.
I have heard from other parents that the same is true for their children, even those in different schools. Many of us have theorized on the demise of cursive as a way of writing. We have figured it has to do with the fact that this generation will rarely be writing anything by hand. Who writes letters anymore, with e-mail being so much easier and quicker? Even handwritten shopping lists have gone by the wayside for many people. It’s so handy to pull up recipes on your computer (or iPad) and print out the shopping list.
And have you noticed what is happening to signatures these days? It used to be that I could read just about everyone’s signature, with the exception of doctors’. In the past, I heard it surmised that doctors’ signatures were unreadable because they were so busy, they had little time to sign their names in a neat, penmanship-worthy fashion. Now we’re all that busy. Everyone has adopted the scribble as his or her personal signature.
Well, not everyone. I pride myself on having one of the few readable signatures left. When I give you my John Hancock, it’s undeniably mine, like no other. And by George you will know from whom it came. Think of it as my art.
Are you nostalgic for cursive, as I am? What “lost arts” make you long for days gone by?