Celebrate Another Lost Art

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Saturday is National Handwriting Day. It is a celebration of the birthday of the signer of the Declaration of Independence with the largest signature, John Hancock. My theory is it was probably put together by the pen manufacturers to try to sell their product. But it shines a light on an important fact. In case you are not aware of it, many schools have stopped teaching cursive handwriting.

I understand why this decision has had to be made. There is a lot to learn and a limited time to teach it. So something has to go. Since all the students are typing on computer keyboards I can see why the decision was made. Its just sad that handwriting has to be one of the things eliminated.

I have to confess. I’m left handed and like many of my kind my handwriting sucks. I’ve had pharmacists who deal everyday with the infamous handwriting of doctor’s prescriptions look at my handwriting and say, “What the hell is this?” But my unreadable scribbles have at least always been unique to me. The best part of handwriting is the individuality of it. This and more is about to be lost.

My first question is what about signatures? These individual representations of a person’s name have been used for identity purposes since the first cavemen could take stick to dirt. I’ve asked students what they are going to use instead of signatures and never get a solid answer. Most are just printing their name. I can only imagine forgers are wringing their hands with glee over that one! I keep getting this picture in my mind of Perry Mason asking a witness, “Is that your name printed on that check?” “I think so”, comes the answer, followed by a tearful, full confession to the murder. Aw what the heck? Lets all just go back to signing with an “X” like illiterate cattle rustlers do on the old western movies.

The real sadness is the loss of the artistic endeavor of putting pen to paper to write down creative thoughts; the personal gift from one person to another when they write down, in their own unique handwriting, the feelings they have for someone. An email starting with the words:
How do I love thee? just doesn’t have the same impact as a handwritten love letter. A thumb drive full of love emails stored in a shoebox in the back of a closet has lost what little emotion it had to start with.

So this Saturday let’s all celebrate by writing something. Even if its just practicing your penmanship so that your signature is more legible. If you didn’t learn handwriting in school, do some web research and learn. Maybe write a note to your spouse telling them how you feel about them. It might open up a whole new line of communication – a written one.

5 thoughts on “Celebrate Another Lost Art”

  1. The shifting of our communication methods have being changing the moment they began. From a simple hand gesture to 1k AES over the non liner phase encryption. I say let the change flow, study your favorite mode but don’t get in the way. You can choose to be deaf, blind or something in between. Those human thoughts are sure to flow. Whether you get flipped the bird or read a word that has been bounced thru space, multiplexed in a ray of light or maybe some day encoded in a intangled photon pair. From my mind to yours I say it’s best to be awake. Take a second and smile, you may be sending a message in way that close to very first thought that moved from one mind to the next. For sure my favorite to study!

    1. Mark,
      I totally understand your point. Human communication, both the method and the language, is evolving along with the race, as it should be. What this article is lamenting is merely the loss of the emotional individuality of handwriting.
      Marshal McLuhan wrote, ‘The medium is the message’ by which he meant that the medium and the message both carry meaning in a symbiotic relationship. That’s what I was trying to say by a love letter meaning more when its handwritten than when its sent in a text or email. The individuality of the handwriting and effort to put pen to paper adds to the emotional content of the words. This is the same comparison as you brought up where a fist with an up-thrusted middle finger directly in your face and a verbal “F-ck you” will have much more impact than a text with the equivalent emoticon and the same words typed.
      Also not all improvements in communication are 100% better and become a compromise. Many tests have been done where a young person texting has been pitted against an old guy using morse code and the morse code has proven to be faster. The improvement in texting as a form of communication came in the ease of use, not speed. Texting is another technology that has come into use because of the old maxim: speed, quality, cost – pick two.
      As technology evolves so will humankind’s ways of using it, whether its use is communication, commerce or warfare. By that same process many outdated technologies will be lost. It is the way of things. But still I feel it is sometimes lamentable.

      1. Not meaning to take sides, but would like to relay an event in my life concerning this. With the ease of using Word and other methods of communications I was used to receiving much of my correspondence in this method. However, one day I happened to receive a handwritten note from a friend and must say I felt more emotion over that note than any typed messages I had received previously. On another note, I was at the bank the other day and had to sign some papers. I thought how much easier it would be for someone to forge a printed signature than a written one. And I thought of all the old westerns I’ve watched where someone signed with an ‘X’ or asked to make their mark.

  2. Plus, how will students who go into research involving original historical documents do their research? And, yes, I agree with all comments made about this. Oh…a specialized niche for a handwriting reading specialist! Let’s charge a couple thousand bucks an hour.

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