August 13, 2003

Cursing The Curse Known As Cursive

I read recently that teachers nationwide are worried that an increase in computer word processors may mean the end of cursive writing, because students increasingly prefer the keyboard to the dizzying loops and swirls of cursive writing. As a former elementary school student who endured the disgusting teaching ritual known as cursive writing, let me just say, "good riddance."

I don't like cursive writing. I have never liked cursive writing. For me, cursive writing always represented an unnecessary and pointless step in the writing process.

I mean, think about it. First, you learn the alphabet, and you learn to painstakingly trace out each letter from "a" to "z," in classic script format, and then you have to be able to remember the differences between capital letters and lowercase letters. I learned how to write my ABCs in kindergarten, and I'm here to tell you that writing out legible script letters using big thick crayons the size of cigars was a cruel introduction to the world of learning.

But, it was necessary, of course, because reading and writing are supposedly important and stuff. So, I played along, mainly because I knew, in a short 23 years, I'd be writing news articles for technology magazines and hacking my way as a marginally humorous columnist. I also knew I was destined to be a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness. What can I say? I had incredible foresight.

But then, just as I had mastered the entire alphabet and was stringing together words and sentences with relative ease, the elementary school powers that be declared that I and the rest of my classmates had to learn cursive writing. Cursive?

"Oh good," I thought. "They're finally going to teach us some swear words."

Alas, when the teacher went up to the board and started writing out a long example sentence in cursive letters, I realized that cursive and cursing are two totally unrelated concepts.

I never fully grasped the nuances of cursive writing. The capital letter "G," in particular, made no sense to me. Come on! It doesn't even LOOK like a G. And don't even get me started on the funky "Z" or the incomprehensible "J." And, forget the tried and true terms like "uppercase" and "lowercase." No, now we had to understand the concepts of "ascenders" and "decenders," which always made me think of escalators for some reason.

When I think back on it, cursive writing represented the first issue on which I tried to fight the establishment, although I guess it wasn't so much a demonstration of establishment defiance as it was my inability to read my own cursive writing, which was eventually dubbed "Ryan-ese." My cursive writing looked like the work of a toddler scribbling with a Spirograph.

And that was one of the most irritating things about cursive writing: everybody's cursive writing looked drastically different from everybody else's. Reading cursive was hard enough without having to translate someone's unique interpretation of cursive. To this day, I've had trouble reading my father's cursive writing, and he's had 50+ years of practice at it.

Eventually, after a couple of years of forced conformity to the injustices of cursive writing, the teachers gave the students a choice between standard script and cursive and it took me all of three minutes to fully free myself of the shackles of cursive writing, and I haven't looked back since. The only remnant of those bygone years of cursive is my signature, an unitelligle and angry swirl of letters that look like an EKG reading of a patient whose heart is in fibbrilation.

Therefore, I hope computer keyboards continue their assualt on cursive handwriting, if for no other reason but to save the world from ever again having to translate my Ryan-ese. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Posted by Ryan at August 13, 2003 01:15 PM
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