My early schooling was still founded on the three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic.We learned to print at the same time we learned the letters.Handwriting (also known as cursive, script, and longhand) was not taught until the fourth grade.I remember it being a big moment in my early education.Reading and arithmetic were mental.Writing took some practice, but handwriting took some finesse and style.In fact, it was one of the few skills taught in which some personal stylistic traits were expected.Indeed, people could be legally identified in court by their handwriting!
My children were of the first generation in which learning cursive was considered a waste of time.My daughter learned it anyway, but my son wasn’t interested.The reasons at the time were obvious.It was a rather difficult and time consuming skill to learn and the computer made it nearly obsolete.And with tablets and phones appearing shortly afterward, it became even more so.Students used to have to write essay questions in longhand on tests.Today laptops are given to students when they enroll.
I didn’t think much about it until about ten years ago.My grown daughter was working at a senior center in Ohio.She mentioned that the seniors would leave notes for members of the staff and they would all take them to her because she was the only staff member that could READ them!I never considered that not learning to write cursive would cause people to not be able to read cursive!I was disheartened.Think of all the history, documents, personal letters, etc. that were now illegible.The Declaration of Independence is in cursive for crying out loud!
I was more disheartened because I had kept a handwritten journal for most of my adult life.It is now fifteen notebooks full of gibberish.It was a real feeling of obsolescence. When I was young, my mother had confounded the rest of our family because she was fluent in Gregg Shorthand, a note-taking invention of swoops and dots that was used in clerical work until maybe the mid-1960’s, before recording became available.She would use shorthand to take phone messages, write to-do lists, or just notes to herself.The rest of us were completely clueless.She could have been planning world annihilation and we would have never known.Now the tables are turned and basic handwriting has become shorthand.Sigh.
Before computers, there were typewriters, which had been around since the late 1800’s.But before that, there were only handwritten documents.Anything which was printed had to be typeset, a painstaking process of placing blocks of single metal letters in a metal framework to be smeared with ink and printed on paper.Not very user friendly!
The first three track titles in this album are pretty self explanatory and conjure up a different, more thoughtful time.The last track, however, is personal, and relates to a group of letters that I was made aware of from my great-grandfather, fighting for the North in the Civil War, to a cousin back home in Iowa.I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was quite taken by them.They were thoughtful, observant, warm, and impassioned.The letters followed his progress as his regiment made its way through the South, and detailed his time when he was wounded and in convalescence. He then returned to the front and returned to Washington D. C. at the end of the war.These letters would be lost forever without a knowledge of longhand!