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Soon There Will be no More Cursive Writers to Buy Fountain Pens

Otto Tasche & Muji Pocket Pen by Glenn Strong

Published in ChicagoNow, May 1, 2014

I have a cousin who makes fountain pens with inkwells. When I asked his sister why, she explained that they were beautiful, collectible, and made letter writing fun. And he loved creating a unique thing of beauty.

My first association to pens and cursive writing was the fountain pen with a turquoise ink cartridge I used to take notes in college. Nothing like pretty calligraphy to stem the boredom of a lecture.

My next thought was that, like hand-written letters, cursive writing is disappearing from our lives. When my granddaughter was in third grade, I remember a handwriting book that was part of her homework. At least she learned to sign her name that year, which is more than many schools do these days.

I asked my niece, who teaches third grade, about this. She was surprised the handwriting book was even sent home. She explained that there was no time to teach cursive writing at her school. It is not part of the Common Core State Standards in Michigan. There is no test to see if a child can write her name. And teaching cursive would do nothing to improve my niece’s year-end evaluation, but higher test scores would.

When I suggested not even being able to sign your name to a letter, document, greeting card, or check was sad, she set me straight. You can print your name, and no one writes checks or sends hand-written letters or snail-mail cards any more. And most documents permit e-signatures. Beautiful handwriting takes a lot of time to learn, is not easy for kids with motor challenges, and is a dying art.

She had me there. Perhaps because my hands are a bit arthritic or perhaps because I am too much in love with my computer, I don’t write too many things by hand these days. I’m more likely to compose a personal letter on Word and print it out than write it by hand. But I still like to sign my name at the bottom.

Written in 1943 from my father to my mother

But it suddenly hit me that, if my grandchildren can’t write in cursive, will they also be unable to read it? Will they never be able to read the notes written by their grandparents, or even by me? Will the stash of WWII letters my parents wrote to each other be gibberish to them? If they do original research that involves pre-21st century documents, will they need an interpreter for the handwritten ones?

All of this makes me sad. Someone has decided that many of our schools shouldn’t waste much time teaching things that don’t matter like cursive writing or art appreciation or literary classics. There won’t be a test on these things and they won’t get kids the jobs of the future. Ours is a disposable society and we are fine with tossing aside the things that are not practical for the future. Today is my granddaughter’s 11th birthday and I think I’ll buy her a fountain pen with green or hot pink (her favorite colors) ink.


by Laurie Levy
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