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Cursive

The decline of cursive writing is a topic that’s been receiving a fair bit of attention lately.

I have some sympathy for the position of schools that have chosen to remove it from their curriculum. How do you justify continuing to dedicate limited resources to teaching a skill that’s required less and less, over ones that virtually everyone will need?

I also have some sympathy for the individuals who believe that by not teaching it, we’re losing something important. It’s been suggested that by removing cursive instruction, we’re neglecting the development of specific neural subsystems: one related to perceiving word shape, another to gestures involved in actually writing the word.

School curriculums continually evolve; they have to. And while I can’t speak with any authority, I suspect the neural subsystems humans have found most useful over the centuries have evolved too. What is the saying? To become what you will be, you must sacrifice what you are?

Handwriting is a very personal thing. Mine is barely writing at all, and certainly no longer cursive. Old school notebooks and journals reveal that in junior high I began to change from the style taught in early grades –– which never looked comfortable coming from my hand –– to a compact style that now more closely resembles printing. By the time I reached university, admittedly in the dark ages, my professors told me if ever I decided I wanted to choose a different career path, I could become a typewriter.

Handwriting doesn’t need to disappear just because schools may not be able to teach it forever. It’s the kind of skill that can be lovingly passed from generation to generation, like my mother’s sewing was passed to me. And indeed, there are already special places and people who will ensure handwriting lives on, and is respected and honored for the important communications vehicle it has been through so much of history.

One such place is a small business in Cambridge, Ontario that celebrates its 5th Anniversary this weekend –– Phidon Pens. Iceberg Publishing partner Peter Tam discovered Phidon when he was searching for a refill for a pen he’d been given. None of the mainstream office supply chains carried the brand, so thanks to Google he met Mano and Baldeep, the proprietors.

Phidon is a beautiful little store that embraces you when you walk in. Its shelves are lined with journals and leather goods, and the various cases display beautiful pens and pencils.

This past year Phidon has started offering cursive writing courses for people of all ages. Their Facebook page includes pictures of handwritten notes from children who are discovering the fun that can be found in the feel of a pen or pencil moving across a page to form words. And as part of the anniversary celebrations, a calligrapher and handwriting instructor will be present on Friday and Saturday to offer demonstrations. It’s all part of their mission to promote the notion of fine writing and penmanship amongst all age groups.

So whatever schools might teach, we all have the opportunity to make sure our children and grandchildren appreciate the power of the pen. Places like Phidon help by providing the best tools, and finest instruction, and we’re lucky to have them.

Well done, Mano and Baldeep –– and Happy Anniversary!