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The Future of Physical Writing

I know, It’s a dramatic image, isn’t it?

I’ve had my grandson since April, and I’ve taken charge of the homeschooling his district is doing through the COVID  closures. He is eight years old and in advanced programs for math and reading.

It breaks my heart to say this, but he hates writing.  He hates the physical act of holding a pencil and putting marks on the paper. He’s come close to hating composition, and that was entirely unacceptable in my house.

He’s composing on the computer, now, knowing he has to copy it all to paper when he’s done, and his attitude has improved slightly. He’s a bit too eager to write down my examples rather than use them to create his own prose.  We’re getting there, with his teacher’s support.

If you took literature in college, you might have had to learn to read Middle or Old English.  People do it because we wanted to read works in the original (or appease our professors). Five years ago, I had a conversation with my nephew, in which he informed me they were no longer being taught cursive writing. I asked him how he would read the constitution or the letters of historical figures if he couldn’t read cursive.  His response was to tell me if it wasn’t printed, he’d have to learn. He was eight then and could read cursive from both his grandmother and myself.  I had hope.

My grandson cannot.  In just five years, kids can no longer do that much. How long before cursive writing is something people consider must be translated?

Oh, they will be fine. I know this. the Digital Natives prefer to compose on keyboards. I do probably seventy-five percent of my composing on a keyboard these days when in flow. The kid will learn to do the same and he’ll be fine. It still makes me sad, though. The thought that he might not be able to read letters between his great-grandparents or any of the genealogy files makes me sad. That I have to print for him makes me sad and frustrated.

I can’t recall another moment in history that moved us away from writing by hand. The printing press merely prevented us having to copy ad nauseum. Steel nibs meant more geese got to keep their feathers. We still had to write…put pen to page.

Times change. We evolve. Those of us meant to write will still write, just without a pen or a pencil. As for those who want to read history in its original form, well, I guess there will be classes or segments of classes in the future to teach kids how to read cursive. After school programs, perhaps? Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll learn to read and write cursive, and it will not be lost to history.

Well, that’s the hope of this grandmother. Perhaps in my seventies, I’ll teach community classes on the subject, teaching this very thing. Then again, I’m still hoping I won’t have to.

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