Caitlin Row
crow@gjfreepress.com

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September 5, 2013
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Is cursive handwriting a dying art in the Grand Valley?

If you’re over 30, you’ll distinctly remember the hours of repetition as a school-aged child, practicing your handwriting on double-lined paper (both print and cursive) until your hand ached. Legibility was key, practice at home was required, and you likely had instruction for a year or more on proper handwriting techniques.

Those days are gone for present-day grade-schoolers, who still spend time learning to print, but far less time honing cursive in favor of new digital requirements. And while some lament the demise of handwriting as a useful art form, others stress the importance of learning new technologies rather than “fancy” script.

“I think cursive is beyond its usefulness in a lot of ways,” Mark Wingerter, 33, of Grand Junction said. “It once had a function, so you could write faster than printing. It’s been replaced by the typed word as a faster way to put thoughts down on paper.”

Emails have replaced notes, handwritten essays are now typed, and school testing is even going digital these days.

“Sending emails is the most often used technology” in my field of work, Wingerter, a Bray Realtor, said, and “when I handwrite, it’s most often just for me.”

Another Grand Junction resident, 58-year-old Cyndi Clark, is completely fine with cursive handwriting falling by the wayside in favor of other more useful skills.

“(I just don’t) see the relevance of needing to learn cursive writing in today’s world,” she recently typed in an email. “Given the technology that exists and will continue to become more entrenched in our society, something like cursive writing will become a rare art in the future (in my opinion). And that’s OK, because there are many things we no longer do in today’s world that were once considered mandatory. Other arts, knowledge, skills and activities have taken their place. We don’t have to hold on to everything.”

Wingerter agreed, noting that he’d rather see his children learn geography over cursive, another school subject he believes deserves far more instruction by teachers. He also commented that printing words is more often preferred over cursive these days when filling out paperwork or job applications because “some people’s cursive is very readable, while others are completely illegible.”

Learning to write one’s signature in cursive is still very important, Wingerter added.

POOR PENMANSHIP A BIGGER ISSUE

Others interviewed fell into a completely different viewpoint, believing that one’s handwriting is a reflection of oneself. And that if someone has sloppy, illegible handwriting, it’s indicative of a bigger personal issue that could be detrimental to both school and job growth.

Fruita resident and paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster has had her share of run-ins with smart, educated kids who have “chicken scratch” for penmanship.

“I’ve dealt with way too many teenagers and college students (summer interns) that need better handwriting to do their jobs. It’s a constant problem. ... It can be a detriment to their work, and they often have to go back and redo work because it’s not legible.”

As a paleontologist working in the field, Hunt-Foster and her interns rely on handwritten notes rather than computers.

“In my job, work has changed little in the last century,” she said. “I still will be handwriting notes on legal documents that may need to go into court some day. It must be legible for the record.”

It’s not just messy cursive handwriting that’s an issue, Hunt-Foster said. She’s run into young adults who have difficulty printing clearly, too.

“It’s a much bigger problem,” she said. “It goes beyond just doing cursive. It’s handwriting in general. I’m constantly telling people to write clearly and crisply. Your handwriting reflects back upon you.”

Plus, some say not learning cursive as a young child could possibly lead to less tangible impacts down the road — like setbacks with coordination and motor-skills development.

In a recent article in The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Is cursive’s day in classroom done?” Reporter Denise Smith Amos wrote: “Experts have said handwriting training helps small children develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and other brain and memory functions” and “cursive writing could be important for children who grow to be a surgeon, a painter or some other professional requiring laser-like precision with their hands.”

Full-time Grand Junction mom of three Amy Pace, age 32, said good handwriting, whether cursive or print, is like manners in that “it carries on into other things,” requires perseverance to learn, and it goes hand-in-hand with “pride in one’s work.”

There’s more to it than just having legible handwriting, she explained. Penmanship is “a silent first appearance. If someone meets you on paper, that’s what they’re seeing of you,” Pace said. So, if it’s incomprehensible scrawl, it will impact one’s work negatively, especially for important applications (college and/or job, for instance).

Wingerter supports this notion as well; when he once managed a store, job applications filled out with sloppy penmanship were thrown out.

Clark weighed in on this, too, saying: “I also believe kids need to learn to print neatly and legibly. As a past employer, I found the lack of readability of applications and other work-related paperwork to be an issue.”

And Pace summed it up: “Of course, kids need to learn to type. We are in a modern age that’s completely technology driven. I really think it’s good that schools are embracing that, but I don’t want us to forget where we came from. I don’t want them to lose our history.”

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READERS: Do you think School District 51 should allot more time to teaching cursive, or should the time be spent teaching other subjects?


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The Post Independent Updated Sep 5, 2013 05:48PM Published Sep 11, 2013 10:32AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.