To Cursive, or Not to Cursive?

I recently tripped over a news item that made me do a double take. It seemed innocent enough, but it really startled me.

HandwritingCursiveCapDirIt was a short notice that a local school was offering cursive writing lessons to anyone who wanted to take them.

I was a bit shocked because

  • I was under the misguided assumption that everyone had to suffer through practicing thousands of loops in third grade, and
  • If they didn’t, why would they want to?

Apparently, there is a not-so-subversive cursive war raging through America’s education system.

Most states have made teaching cursive writing optional. The argument is that there are more important areas to concentrate on during the limited school day—like keyboarding.  In a time when kindergarteners are using iPads in schools, teaching handwriting seems as outmoded as the quill. Why not teach skills that will be more important in “real life”?

While the opposition’s arguments are sometimes specious (one Washington state lawmaker proclaimed that cursive was part of “being American”), there is research that outlines the benefits of hand writing. The tactile connection from brain to hand to paper has been shown to improve motor skills and spark creativity. It can also help mitigate dyslexia.

Should we just let cursive die out?

Personally, I would hate to see that happen. Taking the time to write something out long hand forces me to slow down and makes my work more thoughtful. I also feel that technology more and more disassociates us from what we produce. There’s something about holding what I’ve written in my hand on paper that seems much more solid than posting it up on the “cloud.” In fact, I’ve gone to using fountain pens for some of my writing.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s no way I’m giving up my computer. But I sometimes get more satisfaction from all those loops on a page.

Where do you stand?


What Cost Convenience?

clip_image001Do we value convenience so much that we are turning into characters from Pixar Animation’s 2008 movie WALL-E?

I was listening to NPR’s On Point recently and had to snicker at the juxtaposition of two of the topics.

The first discussion was about the diabetes crisis in America, “The Diabetes Surge.” When talking about Type 2 diabetes, most of the guests agreed that poor diet and lack of physical activity were the major culprits (although they admitted that there was a genetic factor, too).

During a discussion of what foods were good and what were bad, one guest said that, if their grandmother wouldn’t recognize a food, Americans shouldn’t eat it. Most guests agreed a good share of people are aware of good nutritional habits but don’t follow them.

Tom Ascroft, the show’s host, asked, “Why not?” The guests seemed to skirt what I think is the primary reason: convenience.

We don’t cook like our great-grandparents did because it takes too long. Americans, to survive financially, live busy lives. Let’s face it; it’s a lot easier to pop something in a microwave or hit the drive-through at the fast food restaurant on the way home from work than it is to cook a meal from scratch. After putting in a full day at work, not counting an aggravating commute, who wants to come home and spend another two hours cooking?

The next segment, “The Rise of Robots in Our Everyday Lives,” talked about how robots are becoming more prevalent in our society and taking over “mundane” tasks. We already have robots that clean the pool or vacuum and wash the floors. Soon we could have robots doing our laundry, mowing the lawn, maybe even dusting. (I’d like one of those!)

Why do we like these robots? Convenience! We don’t have time or energy to put in the physical effort required for housework or yard work. We have just enough energy each evening to snuggle into our recliners with a bag of chips and succumb to the call of the siren Television.

I was standing on line at the store the other day (with the Internet, that may become a thing of the past, too) and realized just how many people, including me, were overweight. The picture of the humans in WALL-E popped into my head – all obese in floating easy chairs with nutritional drinks that look like milkshakes in their soft, pudgy hands.

Is that our future? Have Americans sacrificed their health at the altar of the God of Convenience?