Most of us remember a time in our early education when we practiced handwriting and cursive. Classes were spent tracing letters and perfecting slanted writing. Today, many adults possess useful handwriting skills, but they may be the last generation to do so. Currently, most children only receive long form handwriting training from kindergarten through second grade, or ages five to seven.
We talk with Jan Olsen, an occupational therapist and the President of Handwriting Without Tears, as she recalls the Whole Language movement of the 1970s, which pushed for greater consideration of content within writing rather than quality of handwriting.
According to Olsen, over the years this has led to a reduction in time allocated to handwriting instruction in schools. Olsen says that when the focus switched from quality of handwriting to quality of content, teachers were no longer being trained on the handwriting best practices.
That’s the dirty little secret in education. [Teachers] don’t want to teach handwriting because they don’t know how.— Jan Olsen
“That’s the dirty little secret in education. [Teachers] don’t want to teach handwriting because they don’t know how,” says Olsen.
Even so, Olsen stresses the necessity of cursive writing still today, stating, “There are still many times when being able to write in cursive, or to read in cursive, is an important life skill socially, educationally, vocationally.”
There are still many times when being able to write in cursive, or to read in cursive, is an important life skill socially, educationally, vocationally.
Margaret Shepherd, a calligrapher, artist, and the author of Learn World Calligraphy, believes that cursive is not only important for communicating thoughts and ideas, but also for conveying personality.
Shepard says signatures are (or used to be) very personal and unique, and the way we write and sign documents plays a factor in whether or not people perceive us as important. As handwriting training becomes more rare, handwritten notes or messages are that much more precious and useful in conducting business.
- Jan Olsen, occupational therapist, President of Handwriting Without Tears.
- Margaret Shepherd, calligrapher & artist, author of Learn World Calligraphy.