From Twigs to Keyboards
There is a current discussion in the genealogy circles, as well as in general circles, about the demise of cursive writing. Forgive me if I don’t have my mind completely wrapped around this, but I think it’s interesting to discuss and mull over the evolution of handwriting in general. I take a personal interest in this topic because I am able to analyze cursive handwriting.
No doubt someone has done a paper on this, but I don’t want to get all scientific and deep about it. Here’s the gist of my thinking on the subject. Handwriting is brain writing. That said, does it follow that the human mind has evolved along with the tools we have available to us? From the most simple of communication using writing I’m guessing it would be cuneiform which would be more printing than any kind of cursive. Using cuneiform would have been fairly uniform with little or no attempt to personalize it with much success.
Moving forward then, let’s consider penmanship as we know if from the last few hundred years. During the Victorian and Edwardian ages cursive was much more flamboyant, which if you consider that time, humans had more spare time and the availability of better clothing, etc. Naturally this era of spreading one’s wings intellectually would have brought about the loops and curls of handwriting that would have indicated the person was well-educated and worldly with a certain style and flair.
Jumping ahead again, during the 1900’s handwriting evolved again, going from the flamboyant to the more “conformative” methods such as Spenserian and the Palmer type. Most likely, this was because it was being used in the business world and would have given businesses an advantage in that any communication they conveyed was universally readable and understood.
If handwriting was brain writing then how were these changes affecting the human mind. Even if you don’t understand handwriting analysis, the change in handwriting still has some effect. As English writing humans progressed it shows the coming out of the era of upper and lower classes. Lower classes had no time or opportunity to even learn to read and write.
We went from an agrarian society and into the industrial age. The upper classes might have held on to their writing for a while, but change was in the air for everyone and expediency became the driving force of society. Faster was the key to making more money and prosperity. No time for fancy writing, we needed to get our points across and so, little by little even our lower grade school children who were taught cursive writing all through the 20th century slowly were weaned off cursive and “graduated” more and more to typewriter keyboards, and even now to computer and personal devices.
Do We Still Need Cursive Writing?
In my opinion, we will always need to have a form of communication that only depends on our mind and some way to share our thoughts. We can’t put all of our communication gifts all in one basket if, for no other reason than we have no idea what the future might bring. What if electronic devices suddenly went away? How would we communicate?
Before I began my courses in handwriting analysis I had some incorrect assumptions about my fellow humans and what their handwriting might be telling me/us. What you might think is ‘sloppy’ handwriting could very well include indicators of a sharp and incisive mind (V like lines), with the ability to concentrate (uniform writing size and depth), and various indicators of the ability to speak intelligently to share those ideas (how they make their rounded letters and if they are open or closed).
Conversely, the people who have retained their somewhat flamboyant writing with big rounded letters and looping curves might just be unable to concentrate, superficial and even selfish.
For now, at least, the electronic age is here to stay. If we are no longer writing in cursive, how are our minds working if we are still brain writing? It does involve the brain even if we type on keyboards as I am doing right now. I think we are using more of both side of our brains for one thing. Our creativity might extend to more “coded” thinking as more and more of us learn to write computer code. Will we be able to analyze the person just by keystrokes and words used in the text?
We won’t be able to analyze handwriting though if too many people lose that skill entirely. Do you think we should still teach cursive writing to all school children? What’s your opinion?
With the holidays upon us….the article below might be handy as you visit with family.