Cursive writing on the way out

January 4, 2013

I was delighted to read the account of historian John William Templeton traveling from California to visit, in person, the Emancipation Proclamation on display under glass in the National Archives [“Free for the viewing, a historic proclamation,” Metro, Dec. 31]. This is something that the Education Department, following the laws of unintended consequences, will guarantee becomes less common as time passes.

Thanks to the influence of standardized tests, as well as a country full of shortsighted teachers and administrators, the learning of cursive writing is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. “Ever forward!” they cry, dazzled by computer technology and apparently indifferent to what will be lost. This article clarified exactly what will be lost: the ability to study primary sources and history’s most important documents in their original form. And not just official documents, but letters and journal entries, too. Future historians, trained only on computers and block letters, will be resigned to studying what someone else says the documents say.

Bumper stickers urge: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” I propose that above the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution there should be a sign — typed, of course — that reads: “If you can’t read this, thank the Education Department.”

Maggie Lawrence, Culpeper

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