It was a challenge that would make most Millennials and Gen Z look up. But Bengaluru-based Sriram Aravamudan recently posted the Cursive Writing Challenge on his Instagram feed, reveling in the sheer pleasure of writing beautifully. .
His challenge? “Write the longest word in the dictionary, floccinaucinihilipilification, unrelated to Shashi Tharoor, within 15 seconds, without removing your hand from the paper except to point the i’s and cross the t’s.”
There were a few takers, some from as far away as Canada, and the challenge brought to light an increasingly redundant skill set. With keyboards replacing writing instruments, does cursive writing take precedence over pens and feathers? “Cursive writing is not so much for looks as for speed,” says Aravamudan, business strategy manager for Spudnik Farms, a local farming community. “It’s an efficient way to write and that’s why she will survive.”
Such optimism is not entirely out of place. Indian schools still teach the skill using cursive writing exercise books. “Usually, by the time the children finish UKG, the children will have learned three types of writing: writing in capitals, writing in block letters, then writing cursive,” explains teacher Dr Manjula. Raman, Group CEO, Royal Concord International Group of Schools.
Year after year, young children are given the task of writing the alphabet in a loop without lifting the pencil from the paper. The pencil should be gripped carefully between the thumb and forefinger. Aravamudan believes that convent schools straddle cursive writing. “We have a joke on my alma mater, Loyola School in Trivandrum, that all of its students have practically the same handwriting! “
But such writing comes at a considerable cost. Writer Christobelle Joseph, who took part in the challenge, talks about the pressure schools put on children for good writing. “It’s a bad memory for most of the kids when it should have been a great form of self-expression.” In her case, she had to rewrite notes because her teaching mother tore up her pages of writing if they were messy.
For supporters of graphology (the study of handwriting), there is a belief that cursive handwriting is related to the personality of the writer. “Personally, I think cursive writing is a great way to understand someone’s personality,” says Zac Schraeder, who works with students aged 17 to 24 in Canada. “Are they regimented and stubborn? Spontaneous and reckless? Efficient and minimalist? I don’t know if it’s scientifically backed up, but it’s a great conversation.”
Will cursive writing prepare brains to read and write fluently? This is true for handwriting in general. In fact, many studies claiming the benefits of cursive writing have actually looked at the benefits of handwriting. “What’s the use of learning a skill to save time writing when you’re not writing at all?” Asks the American coder Akshat Kumar.
Now in his twenties, he doesn’t remember writing much after graduation, except for the signatures and completed forms “which, by the way, insist on capital letters ”.
Students type much faster than they write. “It makes me a little sad to recognize it,” Schraeder said, adding, “Cursive writing is quickly becoming a lost art.”
Raman strives for a happy medium by advising education from around the age of 10. Not only do they have better motor skills, but they can also grasp better. “Good writing skills, like good habits, are inherited from childhood. “
It was the memory of his maternal grandmother’s letters, filled with “the best cursive writing in the world,” that made Aravamudan appreciate cursive. “Growing up, I saw my grandmother’s letters and wanted to have a handwriting like hers.”
But is cursive writing really a 21st century skill? Is it effective, as some experts claim, for people with developmental dysgraphia and dyslexia? As such questions constantly emerge, retired teacher Prof Seetha Sathyan believes these questions are easily replaced by handwriting itself. “I feel that handwriting, in general, is fading. And with that, I want to leave the question to readers: what exactly did you handwrite today? “
What if you wrote, was it in cursive? The answer to relevance is there.