Andre previously was named a national handwriting champion in his grade level and a California contest winner. He and other students like him represent a conundrum in American education: They love writing in script, even as many forces push formal penmanship out of schools and daily life. The emphasis on standardized testing and such basic skills as math and reading has diminished classroom time spent on penmanship. At the same time, the dominance of computers has focused attention on the use of keyboards for e-mailing, text messaging and other forms of communication. But there is also strong evidence that links good handwriting with improved grammar, composition and reading. More practically, many state and national tests, including the SAT, require handwritten essays, and legibility of papers vastly eases the job of reading and scoring. And there are kids like Andre, who believes that handwriting is a reflection of his character and personality:" If you're neat in life, your handwriting is going to be neat," he said after a recent class. "If you're sloppy in life, your handwriting will be too." By all accounts, Andre has always been a bit of a perfectionist and partial to neatness."Since Day 1, he was very meticulous and everything had to be just so," said his grandmother, Marie Bermudez. " He collects watches, and they're lined up just so, ever since he was young." But Andre points to his mother, Maria Cataluna, as the catalyst of his award-winning writing." When I was little," he said, "if the handwriting on my school papers was sloppy, she'd tear it up and make me do it again." When it comes to technique, he says, look to the instrument." To me, the pen matters the most," Andre said. " Especially the weight and whether the ink is thinner or thicker. Thinner ink makes my writing flow better." But the elegant stylist who likes to draw cartoons and one day wants to play professional volleyball admitted being seduced by the dark side: "I like using computers," he said. That is the trend for much of Andre's generation: Schools often teach students to use a keyboard in third grade, the same time they teach cursive writing. Some schools have dropped penmanship as a class or insist on instruction that can be accomplished in 10 or 15 minutes a day.Andre's cursive is beautiful. The reason I appreciate it so is because of my Dad, who had the best handwriting of anyone's I've ever seen. Dad used the Palmer method, which was taught in school when he was a child. My own handwriting wasn't that great until my late-twenties or so. Dad had once said he was appalled with my cursive, and he wrote out each letter of the alphabet for me, upper and lower case, on a piece of legal paper. I keep that paper tucked inside my copy of "The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States" (1992). My writing continues to improve. Interestingly, one of the main times when I write longhand is when I'm grading papers; this is the one moment in the semester when I'm really able to comment on each student's work. My plain cursive lacks the big looping flourishes some of the kids in this article mention, but occasionally I'll get an e-mail back from a student after the return of grades thanking me for the feedback I've provided. I try to take pride in my penmanship now, for myself, and my Dad, who passed away in December 2004. I would have loved to have mailed Dad a copy of this article, with a little handwritten note, noting how the type of penmanship he championed was alive and well.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The Los Angeles Times on the Lost Art of Cursive Handwriting
The Los Angeles Times had a really neat story yesterday on Andre Cataluna, a local boy from neighboring Carson, California, who recently won a national handwriting contest. For a closer look at the photo of his masterful writing click here. As the story indicates, good handwriting is not only a lost art, but penmanship is a gateway to academic performance:
Posted by Donald Douglas at 6:15 AM