Since the US Department of Education dropped cursive writing from the standard national curricula in 2011, the debate on the value of learning penmanship has raged.
Some argue that the skill is obsolete, akin to learning how to use an abacus in the age of supercomputers. “[The] time kids spend learning to write curvy, connected words, is time kids could be spending learning the basics of programming and any number of other technology skills they’ll need in our increasingly connected world,” wrote blogger and podcast host Justin Pot in a spirited editorial rejecting the utility of such “anachronistic skill.”
But for me, holding a Bic ballpoint pen—that anachronistic tool—always takes me back to third grade penmanship class. Then, the cheap disposable pen was a trophy of achievement, and the day I upgraded from pencil to pen is as memorable as any graduation day.
I attended an all-girls private school in the Philippines run by Belgian missionary sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a school that was both ultra-traditional and very progressive, if not outright socialist. There were days when classes were cancelled so we could march on the streets in solidarity with disenfranchised farmers for agrarian reform. (I practiced lettering on political signs and could make a sturdy papier-mâché protest effigy at a young age.)
But there were also many days spent learning how to sew, touch-type, and yes, master the art of cursive writing—truly one of the greatest sources of angst for a third grader.