Write me a letter (July 24)

by Debbie Norrell, Lifestyles Editor

“I’m going to sit right down and write myself a letter and make believe it came from you.”

If you are anywhere near my age maybe you heard your mother sing these lyrics or heard the song on radio or television. Nina Simone performed this song as well as Barry Manilow. When you say that you are going to write someone a letter, to me the expectation is that the letter will be a handwritten letter in cursive. Frankly I have never had pretty handwriting but I still use the cursive style of writing.

I was out of town recently and thought I would send my great-nephew a postcard. I guess all of this is old school but I thought he would appreciate the gesture. I know that he likes to get mail. When I was his age I thought it was a great thing to get a postcard from someone who has gone out of town. We had the best postman back in those days and when the postman went on vacation he would send me a postcard. So I sent my favorite and only great nephew JB a postcard with a picture of the Martin Luther King Monument.

On the card I wrote that I hope this was his first mail at his new address. After an appropriate time I asked his mother if the postcard had arrived and she said it did, however since it was written in cursive he could not read my message since cursive is no longer taught in his school, so she read it to him. Of course this led me to do an investigation on cursive writing in schools.

Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 mandating cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest of 14 states that require cursive. And a few years ago, the 1.1 million-student New York City schools, the nation’s largest public school system, encouraged the teaching of cursive to students, generally in the third grade. Texas students will have to learn cursive again starting this fall.

Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma, or Aunt Debbie. And still more say it’s just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.

I heard a story about a young person registering to vote and was told to sign their name—instead, they printed it. Again they were asked to “sign” their name and the young person explained that they were never taught how to sign their name in cursive. One school explained there are only so many hours in the day and teaching cursive was something that was eliminated because in most causes cursive writing is transferred into a digital format.

I told my niece she could use cursive as a secret code language since her son cannot read it. Write his Christmas list in cursive.

(Email Debbie at debbienorrell@aol.com.)


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