By Zoe Loos | Opinion Columnist
I thought I would be a bit older before I started using the phrase, “Back in my day…” However, I am announcing to all that the day has come.
Back in my day, we had individual lessons and class time dedicated to the art of making writing incredibly challenging—cursive. I still remember being in third grade learning how to dot my I’s that now looked like small mountains and cross my T’s that looked like flower buds. My handwriting was horrible, so nothing looked as majestic as small mountains and flower buds. My writing assignments appeared scraggly, like hair that had gum trapped in its midst’s that peanut butter failed to get out.
I was previously unaware that Louisiana, California, and Alabama have all passed laws that make it mandatory for children to learn cursive. I was also unaware that cursive was no longer being taught. I did not exactly think that something I was taught in elementary school would no longer be taught to current children attending school; seriously I cannot get over how much this topic makes me think “back in my day.”
At first, I thought that I could discuss what I had researched and discovered about the debate around cursive. There was a particularly interesting article that discussed how the real fear among educators is not that children should learn cursive, but that children are simply not writing as much. Funding is low in schools, and there is a higher focus on one-sentence responses to questions, short summaries, and fill in the blank worksheets. As New Common Core State Standards place greater importance on composition, the article elaborated, students will be able to practice writing more, and this will help lay the groundwork for students to develop strong composition skills. While I find this all to be fascinating and an important discussion on the school system and the access people have to resources, I thought it might be interesting to explore something slightly different.
I have always personally found great enjoyment in writing; more specifically handwriting and more specifically still cursive (or rather my brand of cursive mixed with print). Cursive, penmanship, calligraphy, etc. are in my mind a type of art. Handwriting is so unique to each and can be a form of self-expression that cannot be found in manufactured fonts. Writing style, which can, of course, be manifested with typing, of course, is also a form of self-expression, but there is something incredibly unique in placing pen/pencil to paper. Letting words pour down your arm into an instrument that you must use to craft language is spectacular.
I do not think cursive should become obsolete the same way I believe that painting should not become obsolete. While I am aware that cursive is not looked at the same way painting is, I find it necessary to not get rid of cursive because of the capacity it has to become a part of someone’s identity. Writing and composition in any form whether typing or handwriting should be compulsory in all schools so children can learn to write. Writing not only is a vital life skill in a common sense, but is also an essential survival skill.
To survive in a world, which constantly evaluates and judges you, there is a lot of power in a pen, in a story. Particularly for marginalized folks knowing how to write and then composing their story can save them from the soul-crushing reality of institutionalized oppression.
To have power over writing your narrative is critical in surviving.
Cursive should be a part of this journey of self-identity and personal expression. Does this mean that cursive should be mandatory? I would argue that it should be made available for those who wish to learn it. For those who want to have their self-reflection be expressed through a pen or pencil. What I am above all arguing for is that art and artistic expression needs to be made available for all children. Cursive, painting, drawing, digital media, photography, videography, etc. —these art forms should be accessible to all but do not individually need to be made mandatory.
There should be a choice in how one chooses to express their innermost thoughts, desires, and passions—their selves.
Zoë Malia Ozoa Loos is one of five columnists featured in the Opinion Section. She is a senior majoring in environmental studies and ethnic studies. Zoë enjoys watching nature and cultural documentaries and doing aqua aerobics with the elderly at her local YMCA.