Even though I work at a pre-through-fifth-grade school, I’m on the preschool side of the fence. So I was dumbstruck today when a coffeehouse pal told me the teaching of cursive writing is being eliminated from American schools! Before advancing arguments, let me share my unvarnished personal opinion in brief: this is idiotic!
My main argument for the continued teaching of cursive is that it is much more conducive to intuitive processes than either keyboarding or writing printed script. It’s more feminine, flowing, and closer to the intuitive, trans-rational mind.
Being a “lefty,” and perhaps for other reasons, I had some difficulty learning cursive back in third grade. I rarely made it into The Good Writers’ Club, an educational organization which awarded certificates for cursive that was legible and pleasant to look at.
My love affair with cursive—which is what we called “writing,” as distinguished from printing—began much later. I believe it started when I began receiving poetic inspirations. These would often come (and still do) as feelings, somewhat inarticulate “itches” of the psyche. It would be up to the pen, or more accurately, the mind-pen arc, to enter this intuitive place and clothe it as accurately and beautifully as possible in words. This process is akin to picking up the end of a piece of string and following where it leads. It can lead anywhere. As the process continues, it may even become unclear whether one is following the thread or creating it, nor does that matter.
The poet Robert Graves, in his well-known book, The White Goddess, describes a scenario for how writing may have arisen. He posits its evolution from a “tree alphabet.” With all its loops, circles and curves, cursive always gives me the luxuriant feeling that I’m indeed expressing something living as I write. My psyche feeds the pen the nutritional material or even the DNA that results in the wonderful, flowing vine that progressively appears on the page! I know of nothing in the domain of writing that compares with this.
Still, I sometimes use the keyboard for long pieces, because doing so allows me to bypass the difficult process of transcribing. I’m still not a Good Writers’ Club kind of guy, especially when trying to scrawl from intuitive depths (I can write a nice birthday card, etc. when called for). Deciphering my own scrawls can necessitate its own creative process, akin to following the ruts a wagon has left in mud. I place my pen on the various loops and mime the original motions until, if I’m lucky, some combination of the context and my memory conspire to give me the correct word. This can be a time-consuming process that, as I’ve said, I sometimes avoid. Having said that, though, I feel the need to reiterate that working in the depths of intuition or spirit has its own value. Great writing has very little to do with time or efficiency.
The thought that future generations will not have access to this wonderful aid to poetry and inspiration is painful! Will we develop a “cursive underground” where the skill, the art, is still taught? I’m confident that whatever tools the human spirit needs, for this cusp of the Age of Intuition to fully develop into the new age itself, will be here for us—one way or another!