Click! Clack! MOO!
Click! Clack! MOO!
Clickity! Clack! MOO!
from Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
written by Doreen Cronin
illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Simon & Schuster, 2000
Like most kids in the 1960s, I learned cursive writing in 3rd grade. We used thick, blue pencils with no erasers and 8-1/2 x 11 newsprint paper, turned on its side. We practiced, over and over and over, staying between the two blue lines, centering our letters on the red line between. It was the same paper we used when we learned to print, but now our letters connected to each other. They were slanty. By the end of the year, our writing flowed, mostly.
But at first, it was a painstaking ordeal. All those rows of little i-s and t-s that needed to be dotted and crossed. And the capital Q-s that looked like the number 2, and the loopy capital L and getting the diagonal to go straight on the capital X. And our teachers graded us in penmanship.
Then, in 2010, a group of governors and school officials from around the country decided that with keyboards replacing pens and pencils and laptops taking the place of paper, there was not as much need for children to learn to let their letters flow fluidly and legibly to the end of each line.
The Common Core State Standards set the well, standard, for proficiency in English/Language Arts and Mathematics. The focus on CCSS was to unify what teachers taught in Kindergarten through Grade 12. Since CCSS did not mention cursive writing specifically as necessary, it mostly fell by the wayside.
But cursive writing has always been part of our culture and heritage.
On October 25, 1774, Timothy Matlack, a clerk in the Pennsylvania State House was tasked with penning the Declaration of Independence, in cursive. He did it in one day.
It is the hand the assistant clerk for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Jacob Shallus, whose cursive hand we view when we read the original Constitution (or its facsimile). It took him 40 hours to create an accurate transcription of the draft he was given. He received $30.00 for his work.
And while it is true historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution (and the Bill of Rights) are handwritten in cursive, advanced technology can transcribe these documents and make them accessible to students who never learned how to write (and of course, read) cursive.
But by 2016, 14 states again required students to learn cursive and currently it is required in 21 states.
The next question is, Besides being able to sign our names and read the signatures of others, do we really still need cursive? Maybe not.
Wait. Not so fast!
A January 26, 2024, article in Frontiers in Psychology quotes ScienceNews.org “there is a fundamental difference in brain organization for handwriting as opposed to typing.” Previous research has shown that handwriting improves spelling accuracy, memory recall, and conceptual understanding. This new study shows us why that is so.
While wearing a cap fitted out with electrodes, study subjects both typed and handwrote in cursive. The scientists compared their brain activity and discovered that cursive handwriting and, to a lesser extent, typewriting not only showed the expected activity in motor areas of their brains, but also other areas associated with memory. They extrapolate that these differences in brain connectivity enhance memory formation and encoding. We learn better when we use cursive.
The benefits of cursive writing are many. Development of hand-eye coordination for one. The brain circuitry we build when learning a new skill remains a lasting part of our brain’s geography. Brain scans taken during handwriting show “activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.” (PsychologyToday.com)
While writing on a keyboard like I’m doing now uses muscle memory, according to pens.com “[h]andwriting is a complex, cognitive process that involves neuro-sensory experiences and fine motor skills.” With all facets working together, a writing experience includes: feeling the paper against our pens; applying the correct amount pressure to make the ink flow; and engaging in the thought process to form the words and sentences.
It cannot be argued that typing is more efficient and easier to read than handwriting. A real-life conclusion may be then, that writing notes on a lecture or text is better for learning new material and reinforcing that which is already learned, and typewriting a report is more practical.
Like our fingerprints, our voices, and our gait, we each have a unique way of forming our letters. Handwriting is personal. My husband’s handwriting is almost as familiar to me as my own.
I can see my dad’s handwriting in my mind’s eye. I recognize my mom’s handwriting in her recipes I’ve saved. I have recipes in my grandmother’s, and my mother-in-law’s hands, too.. They have become precious to me.
Graphologists discover personality traits by observing the way people form their letters. They claim the ability to pinpoint over 5,000 personality traits by considering how much pressure we use, how big our letters are, how they are spaced, where we cross our ts and dot our is, if we write uphill or down, how we slant our letters, and how legible our writing is.
Forensic handwriting analysis is science based. Both are used to authenticate documents and signatures and “get a read” on a potential suspect in money-laundering and other forgery schemes.
Whether or not you put stock in someone’s ability to learn about you through the marks you make on a page, by taking a deeper dive into the subject you might discover something new about yourself. The library has several books on graphology and the Internet is full of articles and quizzes. I’m sure some are more reliable than others. Choose wisely!
I wonder if I practice traits I like and change my handwriting accordingly, a personality change would follow. I have seen accounts that say it can. Hmmm.
On second thought, I think I’m just fine the way I am!
I’m reading First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston (Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Publishing Group, 2024). It’s a fast-paced thriller with an unreliable, but likable main character. When she’s “rescued” from legal trouble by her secretive new employer, Evie must stay hidden in plain sight as she carries out his dangerous and shady assignments.
-—Be curious! (and write a letter to a friend)