Education, Media

One Mail Date You Can’t Miss

IMG_4675

Early cursive, having graduated from a straight pen to a fountain pen.

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. You need to prepare.  But just yesterday, in an important and related circumstance, our world was jiggled.

The news is that the State of Washington is considering a bill to re-install cursive writing as a mandatory subject in elementary school.

These things creep up on you.

It’s not that we missed cursive writing so much as we just didn’t notice that our children no longer write.

They print.

This is because the key pads of every digital device in the world host simple characters, void of any “joined up” writing.

In schools today, writing is no longer a strength. QWERTYUIOP is. This is the real impact of an analog world that went digital.

OMG!

Love Script 9

~”Steel Rail Blues” 

On closer inspection we find a more destructive force at work.

When our kids were divested of their writing skills, they likewise lost their will to communicate on paper. And what follows that is the total lack of understanding about commitment, letters, and the mail.

Love Script 1

~”P.S. I Love You”

In just over two weeks’ time it will be Valentines Day.   February 14th is the penultimate delivery day for personal mail.

Miss this date, and you are sunk, pretty much for the year.

The magic of Valentine’s Day is all about writing and receiving cards, and letters, which are totally tricked up and enhanced for impact.

Love Script 3

~”Mr. Postman”

Cursive writing plays a big role.

Getting Letters
Since the invention of papyrus we have lived in a world where written communication was executed using mail delivery.

A note arrived, not at the speed of light, but at the speed of foot. Replies were expected within weeks, not seconds.

Love Script 5

~”Return To Sender”

There is an argument that speed is of the essence. Why wait two weeks to learn that a love is requited when you can know thumbs up or down in nano seconds?

Answer: the wait is part of the experience.

Not knowing for sure can extract days of wistful, sometimes excruciating, wrenching anticipation of an answer.

Why spoil that with a text reply that will fit on a license plate?

Love Script 8

~”Nights In White Satin”

The effort of putting it on paper, combined with the plodding slowness of mail have been the guard rails of civility for centuries.

Writing gives time for the distillation of emotions.

Committing thoughts on paper gives solemnity and gravity to an otherwise flippant, momentary impulse.  By contrast, the most powerful, and potentially destructive word in the lexicon today is “Send”.

Love Script 4

~”Song For A Winter’s Night”

So we need cursive.   It takes practice and time to perfect.  It also looks nice, even when young hands, and older ones too, have difficulty forming the words.

There are two weeks remaining before a trip down to the mail box reveals your true feelings to a certain someone.

Make the most of your time.

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22 thoughts on “One Mail Date You Can’t Miss

  1. Martin and Mary Shelley says:

    One of your all time best!!   Thanks a lot for this.  It will be forwarded around quite a bit. Thanks also for your concern over the past 2 months.  I’m truly doing much better today. Martin

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Angela Keirn says:

    Hi Phil & Jane, Just so you know, all my kids learned cursive. Chloe is learning in 3rd grade now and some of the kids from India and elsewhere are thrown a bit since their parents have no idea how to do it. I still like cursive!

    Like

    • Hi Angela!
      I am glad that cursive still “runs” in your family. And… I am glad that my blog gets to you via FB. Jane will respond separately, as will I to your other news. Thanks for writing!

      Like

  3. kategladstone says:

    Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)

    More recently, it has also been documented that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia.
    This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive poses even more difficulties than print-writing. (Contrary to myth, reversals in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”)
    — According to comparative studies of handwriting speed and legibility in different forms of writing, the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too.

    Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print.

    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive” — appstore.com/readcursive
    Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach this vital skill quickly — for free — instead of leaving it to depend upon the difficult and time-consuming process of learning to write in cursive (which will cost millions to mandate)?

    We don’t require our children to learn to make their own pencils (or build their own printing presses) before we teach them how to read and write. Why require them to write cursive before we teach them how to read it? Why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?
    Just as each and every child deserves to be able to read all kinds of everyday handwriting (including cursive), each and every one of our children — dyslexic or not — deserves to learn the most effective and powerful strategies for high-speed high-legibility handwriting performance.
    Teaching material for practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive which is venerated by too many North American educators. Some examples, in several cases with student work also shown: http://www.BFHhandwriting.com, http://www.handwritingsuccess.com, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/09/08/opinion/OPED-WRITING.1.pdf, http://www.briem.net, http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/hwlesson.html, http://www.freehandwriting.net/educational.html )

    Even in the USA and Canada, educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
    (If you would like to take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, and not restricted to teachers — visit http://www.poll.fm/4zac4 for the One-Question Handwriting Survey, created by this author. As with the Zaner-Bloser teacher survey, so far the results show very few purely cursive handwriters — and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world — 75% of the response totals, so far — consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.)
    When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

    Believe it or not, some of the adults who themselves write in an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me that they are teachers who still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or who still teach their students that all adults habitually and normally write in cursive and always will. (Given the facts on our handwriting today, this is a little like teaching kids that our current president is Richard Nixon.)

    What, I wonder, are the educational and psychological effects of teaching, or trying to teach, something that the students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?
    Cursive’s cheerleaders (with whom I’ve had some stormy debates) sometimes allege that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote that form of handwriting. The cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, that it instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or that it confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of the human race. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident as soon as others examined the claimed support:

    /1/ either the claim provides no source (and no source is provided on request)

    or, almost as often,

    /2/ when sources are cited and can be checked (by finding and reading the cited document), the sources provided turn out to include and/or to reference materials which are misquoted or incorrectly represented by the person(s) offering these as support for cursive,

    or, even more often,

    /3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

    Cursive devotees’ eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are commonly made — under oath — in testimony before school districts, state legislatures, and other bodies voting on educational measures. The proposals for cursive are, without exception so far, introduced by legislators or other spokespersons whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — although investigative reporting of the questionable testimony does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when the discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill? (Documentation on request: I am willing to be interviewed by anyone who is interested in bringing this serious issue inescapably before the public’s eyes and ears.)
    By now, you’re probably wondering: “What about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive?” Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
    Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

    All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

    SOURCES:

    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
    Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

    /3/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf

    Ongoing handwriting poll: http://poll.fm/4zac4

    The research most often misrepresented by devotees of cursive (“Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Dr. Karin Harman-James at Indiana University):
    https://www.hw21summit.com/research-harman-james

    Background on our handwriting, past and present:
    3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —

    TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —

    HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
    (shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone • 518-482-6763
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
    handwritingrepair@gmail.com
    165 North Allen Street • First Floor
    Albany, NY 12206-1706 • USA

    Like

    • Never one to argue a point, this well researched comment probably makes complete sense. But the same argument could be made for dumping Latin, an ancient and unused language, from school curriculum. The “pro” to all of this is the beauty of cursive. It makes the cursive writer a little more interesting, just like Latin. Regardless, my main concern is that you not forget Valentine’s Day! Cursive or print, choose your best!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Patrick says:

    Good article – I always found doing cursive well rewarding, and now just trying to practice it (if you can find lined paper), is a bit meditative. Now….where is my paper….?

    Like

  5. Hi Phil ….

    Cursive SCHMURSIVE is what I say !!! Horrible stuff – we need to encourage ITALIC style – the same that every British public school endorses – the style used by monks in scriptoriums for hundreds and hundreds of years – that THAT’S style baby !!!! Writing as art. Cleaner that loopy doopy scroopy cursive – yet still able to be personalized. Besides, how else are you going to encourage the use of fountain pens with italic nibs??? Long live the Osmoroid!

    Kit

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kit, you are THE MAN. Thanks for giving the enhanced viewpoint. I am digging my straight pen out of my pencil case now. I will add that my transition from pencil to straight pen in 4th grade was a painful maturation process. We quickly learned that while straight pens, with their sharpened nibs, were somewhat resistant to upward strokes on cheap foolscap, then did make excellent weapons in our many aisle wars. When you were jabbed with straight pen, you really did get a scar, infused with blue ink. Sweet! I can only imagine what the monks did.
      Thanks for writing!

      Phil.

      Liked by 1 person

    • kategladstone says:

      The monks, writing with feathers rather than steel, probably had less reason to fear being cut by their own tools.

      Regardless, I agree on the strong merits of Italic (I’ve been for 26 years a member of the Society for Italic Handwriting — italic-handwriting.org)

      Although it is no longer true that absolutely “every British public school uses” this handwriting of Renaissance origins, Italic has strongly influenced even those that now use other sorts of handwriting. (Italic, in various names and varieties, also remains far commoner than Looped 100% joined cursive in the school systems of most nations using our alphabet — and at least 80% of the Englidh-speaking nations’ school systems) outside North America.

      Further, there are several Italic handwriting textbook publishers in North America (list of links on request), including one in Oregon: near enough to Washington that I’ve urged interested legislators and others in that state to have a look before they decide about handwriting.
      The Oregon publisher — handwritingsuccess.com — does a free public workshop for three hours every year: always on a winter Saturday morning, beginning at 9 AM, yet always well-attended, and with the attendees’ hugs permanently changed (by their own reports). This year’s workshop had 80+ attendees, despite being held on Valentine’s Day.

      One should note, though, that in most of today’s Italic methods (including this one), the characteristic edged pen is introduced only after the earliest stages — and even then is left optional at the discretion of the student. (I am not the only modern-day Italic user who employs as many colorful felt-tips, pencils, and roller-balls as specially made fountain pens.)

      Given Italic’s self-consistency (one method of writing developed through life, rather than two imposed in quick succession), and its consistent with what research favors (semi-joined forms recognizable on the basis of familiar printed letters), why on Earth should we not simply teach the next generation to write in this attractively simple Renaissance way, and to read the more complicated (literally Baroque) handwriting of others who were not so fortunate?

      Liked by 1 person

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