If anything could inspire a resurgence in the art of penmanship, it just might be this cast iron double snail inkwell we found at Antique Alley in Matthews, North Carolina. Can’t you just envision Charles Dickens sitting at his desk, dipping into the inkwell as he conjures up the Ghost of Christmas Past? No blinking cursor, no spell check, no cut and paste here - just a man with his pen, ink and paper.
Most of today’s students get very little instruction in penmanship. Gone are the Palmer Method Workbooks and the ABCs of Industry or as I like to call them the ABCs of Misery. When the ABCs of Industry booklets arrived each year, we would devote hour after hour copying and practicing the text. Each letter represented a company such as G is for Goodyear and we would copy the 2-3 line verse about each using fountain pens – no mistakes, no ink eradicator or smudges allowed. And so began my misery. I would religiously make it to the last line on the page and then leave out a word or the ink would blob and smear and I’d have to start the page all over again. Needless to say, I never won any handwriting awards. Once I learned Gregg Shorthand, any possibility of improving my handwriting skills went out the window.
Some education experts propose that we no longer need to focus on penmanship or teach cursive in our schools. They say with today’s technology, very few folks actually have the need to physically take pen in hand and put their thoughts on paper. However, if we follow this line of thinking, then do we really need to teach math, reading or keyboarding? With the advent of smart phones, we have the capacity in our hands 24/7 to find out anything we need to know and the ability to do so just by asking a question and listening to the answer - no reading, calculating or keyboarding involved.
Other education experts say that the interactions involved in learning to write letters, words and sentences stimulate brain function in a unique way which enhances learning pathways in other areas of learning as well. While both printing and cursive involve touch, hand movements, visual skills and brain function, cursive is more beneficial as it is more demanding involving more refined skills. If these studies are correct in claiming that students who are provided with cursive instruction are better able to learn in other areas, does it not make sense to include cursive instruction daily in the classroom?