On Handwriting

August 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

The other day, during a meeting, my boss mentioned a strange phenomenon from her daughter’s school- on the day they were to take a non-computerized, standardized test, they spent up to 40 minutes just on the first task which is, wait for it, signing their names in cursive on an Honor Form.

My coworker Nicole and I sat in the meeting, dumbfounded, but I was even more dumbfounded by what happened later- the other people in the meeting weren’t shocked that a bunch of sixteen and seventeen year olds can’t handwrite their names- they were shocked because, in their words, “Why are we asking these kids to handwrite anything these days?”  Their surprise was over the fact that there was any writing AT ALL. While Nicole and I, unarguably the youngest in the room and likely the most technologically savvy given our ages, lamented over a loss that neither of us had even seen coming.

Nicole’s a designer/artist and I’m a writer so I suppose it’s not that big of a leap to see why we’d feel that way. But does anyone else feel this way? Do we really believe that in ten years, we’ll live in a world where we will never, ever be asked to write out our names in script? Honestly? That is shocking to me. Shocking and sad. It made me think of this, which I read recently and found very poignant, very sweet. The fact that the words exist in type is not the point either- they exist on paper somewhere in a mother’s handwriting. They were purposefully written in long-hand so that one day, they will be cherished.

I think of my mother’s cursive. She has the most beautiful handwriting ever and I might just think that because she’s my mother but it’s still always comforting to see it, even on a grocery list. And my dad’s chicken-scratch, his neat, tiny letters that seem to be getting smaller as he gets older, if that’s even possible. My brother’s signature is almost exactly the same as when he was in grade school (so is mine). I could look at a card and tell you immediately which of my sisters wrote it.  I kept a note from Vic on the fridge because even the way she writes makes me laugh. And out of all the letters from my oldest pal Kate, even though they’re almost always typed, the part that makes me smile first is where she’s written my address and her address, in her words and in her handwriting.

It’s not that I don’t realize the disparity in teaching a child to write in cursive and teaching them to write AT ALL. They could just print their names, you could argue, and won’t that be the same thing? Yes and no. Your signature says so much about who you are (and it’s scientifically proven. Otherwise, why have handwriting experts?)  If we were all to print our names, there’d be some differences, I’m sure, in the way we grasp the pen and tilt the paper, a lean to a letter here and a tilt there, but mostly they’d be uniform. Why else do we require signatures on a typed, formal letter? We want a stamp of honesty- a testament that you actually wrote this and you stand behind it, enough to leave your name. It’s an ancient practice. Years from now, the President will continue to sign a bill into law (with multiple pens no less). Not enter it on to a laptop. A signature has power and pomp. It indicates a ceremony has taken place. In weddings, we write our names. On birth certificates. On death certificates. We practice autographs. We link our name to another on a binder, linked by a colored heart.

There’s distinction in the way you write print but not enough. And it might be old-fashioned and I might be going against the tide here but is it so wrong to want us to hold on to this? Even if technology consumes more and more of our functionality, is it wrong to hope that my kid, when pressed, can sign his or her own name? That they’ll write the words and one glimpse will tell me exactly who they are.


Entry filed under: Random Bits.

I am now that person without cable… Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

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About This Lady

I am a writer who has lived in DC, Los Angeles and Chicago. In the morning, I write novels. During the day, I write ads, brochures, websites and blogs. At night, I don't do any writing because that's too much writing.

Trying to be Auntie Mame but right now I feel more like Liz Lemon in execution. It's a process, people.

I have a food/fiction blog called Some Kitchen Stories.


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