It’s going, going, but not quite gone. While many public schools have dropped cursive as a required subject from curriculums due to society’s shift to computers and technology, it’s not as obsolete as some might think.
Most people associate longhand with the dying art of letter writing, but there still exist practical uses for it, such as for college-bound high school students taking the PSAT and SAT tests. The standardized tests, required for entry by most colleges, include a statement that students must complete in cursive.
"When I took the SAT, I hadn't really practiced cursive since the 4th grade, so it took me a while to remember how to do some of the letters," recalls Elizabeth Anderson, a student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
Although it's not required teaching for local public schools, Santa Fe Public Schools Response to Intervention coordinator Trina Raper says that the district's not anti-cursive.
"There's all kinds of writing happening in classrooms, but we've never said 'don't teach cursive'," says Raper. "Teachers can run out of time for all sorts of things while trying to manage a classroom."
With full classrooms and a large range of subjects to teach, educators sometimes can't find time to squeeze in cursive, she says. Teachers are encouraged to vary style of teaching by student, meaning that if a student struggles with basic handwriting, that student should be coached in how to properly hold a pencil and write cleanly.
"It's not an either/or district mandate," she says. "It's about giving each student what they need."
While many school administrators and teachers have pushed cursive to the wayside to make room for mandatory subjects and testing, there are still those who believe in and support the written word.
"It's the last form of personalized communication," argues Neal S Frank, owner of Santa Fe Pens in downtown Sanbusco Market Center.
With passion and self-interest, Frank is teaming up with local calligraphy and cursive teacher Sherry Bishop to revive the art of good penmanship.
"It is self-expression," agrees Bishop, who teaches at one of the few local schools that still requires learning cursive, the Santa Fe Waldorf School. "We can't get much closer to the heart than true handwriting."
For Frank and Bishop, cursive is about more than good penmanship.
"There's been a couple of studies that show learning cursive triggers the brain on how to learn," says Frank, adding that "there may be a correlation between not learning cursive and the fact that we [the US] are falling behind the rest of the world."
Bishop adds that practicing cursive and handwriting improves fine motor skills and head-heart-hands coordination.
"It's this beautiful mediation, and there's this rhythm that gets the body in sync," she says. "It's just me and the person I'm sending the letter to–it's just this beautiful, private conversation."
To spread the word and offer interested parties a chance to learn, Santa Fe Pens is hosting its 20th annual Pen Fair on Saturday and Sunday, where adults and children older than eight can take free handwriting and cursive seminars taught by Bishop.
Attendees will also get to test-write with specialty pens worth up to $10,000, and see new novelty Santa Fe edition fountain and roller-ball pens.
Frank uses the Constitution of the United States as an example of the importance of being able to at least read cursive.
"Our entire written history is written in cursive," says Frank. "If you can't write it, you can't read it."
In the past, the pen fair included seminars only for children, but due to popular demand, an adult workshop was added last year.
Bishop hopes that people learn and value handwriting not only for the educational benefits, but the emotional and personal ones too.
"It's one of the kindest gifts we can give another person," she says. "It's our own expression."
SANTA FE PEN FAIR
10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, March 7; noon to 5 pm, Sunday, March 8
Sanbusco Market Center
500 Montezuma Ave.,