1.09.2007

The death of cursive handwriting?





12 comments:

possum said...

I was JUST talking about this with some of my colleagues here at school. Some of them have terrible handwriting. When I was in school, the teachers had beautiful, flowing script flowing out of their chalk. Now, most of them print on the board. And my students, who born in the nineties, were never even taught cursive writing. I asked them if they wanted to learn, and they responded with a resounding yes. So we're going to cram it in between the World War II unit and the Sustainable Agriculture unit. Keep it alive a little longer.

As for me, I wish I could post a comment in cursive right now. I do write things out longhand. And sometimes I use a typewriter. The laptop, while I love it, is rarely a first draft machine. I still have a very large callous on my right middle finger where the pen presses into my skin. I still write letters, actual letters, and mail them in the actual mail. I believe, really believe, that touching the paper, really touching it, dragging your knuckles across the page, is a connection with the people who will later hold that page -- even if that person is the future me, tomorrow, when I sit down to type the rewrite.

Handwriting keeps us human.

traca de broon said...

Before Grendel's grandfather died and we inherited a television, we used to sit around our little house on Bloomington Street listening to books on tape. We had a favorite book-on-tape reader, George Guidall, and started listening to everything the ICPL had that was read by him. This bit about handwriting reminds me of the many, many, many nights we sat listening to Mr. Guidall read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the introduction, it was explained that Victor Hugo had bought himself one jar of ink with which to write his book, and that he finished the book with the very last drop. True or not, imagine how satisfying that would be.

And getting back to Mr. Guidall for a minute, he did a fantastic job, actually, reading Grendel. The scene where Grendel is watching the goat struggle up the mountain was a favorite -- we repeated it many times before moving on. ("Ahh, goat. Goat!")

Grendel said...

Treasure that callous, Possum! I, too, wish you could comment in handwriting. But you would have to scan it and post it as an image, as I did in the post, and Blogger doesn't allow that in comments.

That Wash Post article talks about other teachers cramming in the teaching of handwriting, not even so kids can learn to write it, but so they can learn to read it. Imagine: there are kids out there, getting good grades in school, who could not read this post. That's astonishing to me.

I do draft everything on the laptop. I like the ability to edit instantly. It saves time. But it also loses something, I have to think.

I remember reading in the early nineties something from a literary critic, who claimed he could spot a "word-processed novel" a mile away. And I remember thinking, jeez, how else would you write one?

Dickens wrote David Copperfield, start to finish, in under two years. That's 1000 pages of perfect prose, and a humongous story, created in handwriting. How is that even possible? I think we are wimps. I think they don't make them like they used to.

And listening to George Guidall is an incredible treat. If you run across a book on tape or disc that is read by him, definitely check it out! The man chews the words so expressively you can almost taste them yourself.

El Gordo de Amore said...

I, in fact, cannot write in cursive --except in Russian (which I learned in college).

When I was a kid and selected for the gifted and talented program, we used to get to go to our own special "nerd" class while the well-rounded and well-adjusted kids had handwriting class and plotted noogies and what not for us once we returned.

While they were learning cursive, I was learning how to cartoon and make short films.

Not that I regret the tradeoff so much (except when writing comments on student papers that even I can't read -- though, part of this might also be that I'm a lefty) -- we got to go tour a candy factory once and I was allowed to be on the Safety Patrol, where I got a badge and the chance to do many Cool Hand Luke impersonations when kids on their way home walked out into the street without looking.

I miss my badge.

traca de broon said...

The only field trip my talented and gifted program ever took was to a German middle school, where we spent the day observing German children and trying to blend as much as possible.

Stupid DoDDs school.

Lumpy said...

My talented and gifted class used to take field trips to restaurants all the time--Indian food, Mexican food, ice cream parlors. And not rarely--probably once a month. As a ten year old I thought this was normal. Now I think my teacher just loved to eat, and used the "talented and gifted" tag as an excuse to check out new restaurants.

Trevor Jackson said...

I can't imagine composing on paper. I had a grad school classmate who wrote all his drafts longhand, except for the one submitted to readers. The guy had a real efficiency with his language by the time we graduated too, which I admit is only circumstantial, but still interesting, evidence.

Antoine said...

I wrote the majority of the first draft of The Interloper (in bookstores May 22!) by hand, and now I'm drafting a new novel, almost entirely on the laptop.

It's a different experience. I hate looking at my "notes" file on the laptop, and I miss the ability to annotate on-the-fly (yes, I know I can do it in Word, but it's not the same).

Mostly, I miss being able to see the trail of cross-outs and inserts and deleted lines and dead ideas. Somehow they seem as much a part of the work as what ends up staying in the draft.

I do like, however, not having to type everything after having scribbled it once already. And I love being able to Find (and Replace) at will.

All that said, the two processes do seem to tap different parts of the brain, at least initially, and I'll often switch from on to the other just to jar things up there. I've even got a manual typewriter for that sort of thing: I'm making noise, so I must be working!

HGF said...

Cannot tell you how excited I am to learn about Guidall. Just decided two days ago that my next e-audio book would be Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's a bit premature, since I am only halfway done listening to a magnificent, heart-wrenching reading of Sinclair's the Jungle. But came across a passage of the Hugo and feel compelled. Two days was enough time for me to start worrying that the Hugo might suffer (unto imcompletion) because the Jungle reader is so amazing. Of course, a little digging reveals they are both George Guidall. Bliss.

Coincidentally, and apropos of the Jungle, the noteworthy field trip taken by my speeded-up (and held back) fifth-sixth grade class was to Detroit slaughterhouses. I can testify that some things hadn't changed between 1906 and 1976, and I'm sure are much the same now. I remember there was a girl in the class who liked bunnies. I thought about her during the field trip, which included quite a bit of gore, and later: how was she taking all this? I never found out. Go, bunnies!

Grendel said...

Antoine, way to go on your novel! That's fantastic. Nice blurbage, too. I'll keep my eyes peeled come May. Maybe you'd do an interview here?

El Gordo, your badge misses you. I just know it. It's sitting somewhere in a box in a garage that some woman puts out in a garage sale, year after year, and no one can hear the badge's cries.

HGF, nice to see your voice again. Isn't Guidall incredible? He could read a sentence like, "She walked across the room" and you're like, "Wow -- you go, girl!"

Vampiro said...

Nice topic. Writing fiction longhand is one of the half-dozen or so tricks I have to get myself writing (and hopefully connecting with my writing) when I've stalled. It's such a different experience (though it typically doesn't last long).

Advantages:

- That tactile sense of the work, the feeling of doing manual, physical labor.

- The fact that you cannot edit & re-edit and rethink and tinker your time away. Too often I find myself mulling over and rewriting pages and paragraphs dozens of times because I can on the laptop, and I get so sick of it that I quit the project before I even get too far into it. I like to think that longhand will help me put it down and let it go until some later date when I come back to revise (and typing up a longhand MSS seems like a great way to reconsider and revise as you go).

Disadvantage: When things are going well, it's hard to get the hand going fast enough. I can get a lot more down a lot quicker when I type.

Maybe I'll have to give it another go, considering I'm stalled these days.

Aldous Bukowski said...

i write in my journal in a notebook. i don't write in cursive but regular writing - what do you call non-cursive writing? - with some touches of cursive. but my hand gets tired sometimes...