As of this year, hundreds of schools have discontinued teaching cursive writing. Soon it will be thousands. Eventually most. We are told the computer keypad is making cursive writing irrelevant. I sigh….
When it comes to cliches about our encroaching computers, Pablo Picasso says it well: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”
Whatever one thinks about communication by cursive, there is no argument the computer lets us do it infinitely easier, faster, globally. At the same time more mechanically, more hurriedly, more indiscriminately.The red line is when we feel a mania for speed at the same time a nausea for reflection. Millions on Social Media make the point every day.
Some critics thunder that at this rate personal communication will be left to professional greeting card writers in cubicles crafting what we think we want to say to others; while personal skills like psychotherapy will eventually be replaced by giving the patient a multiple-choice IPad.
Drifting somewhere between our anger and adulation is what the new generation will seize as their own. If current practice portends that future, chances are they may miss entirely the feel of fine paper between their fingers, or the fragrance of a personalized love note, or especially the sensation of crafting a handwritten message by the elegance of the strokes and the boldness of the punctuation marks.
While Charles Dickens and Mark Twain would have found such lossesunimaginable, neither can we imagine what communication will be like among the children of the Millennials. A future likely to be consistent with an age of hi-tech where old barriers among our species may yield to new bridges. Bridges of communication available to more billions more readily than ever before. The possibilities for planet-wide interaction are intoxicating to some, threatening to many.
But if the first law of life is change, the human race has never quite adjusted to its inexorability. Existence is hard, so the comforting grooves in it we dig for ourselves are never easy to relinquish. Cursive writing seems to be another historic case in point. We took so many millennium to evolve from grunts to Shakespeare, and now we are being advised our grandchildren will be squeezing the Bard into emails, and spurts of 140 characters. Sometimes it all gathers up….
Those of us still on this side of that red line have a choice. Either let the kids buy you that computer, or continue to write cursively and majestically behind closed doors. Who cares that when found someday, your work will be the next “lost language” to be decoded.
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