Cursive and Art

April 14, 2009

USA Today and Newsweek recently published articles on the decline of teaching formal cursive in elementary schools (block lettering is still mandatory). In order to prepare young students for today's Digital Age, grade school curricula are showing a preference for keyboarding lessons over cursive. Both articles question the need for teaching formal handwriting in cursive from an educational, historical, and evolutionary standpoint. With students now only being taught formal penmanship approximately fifteen minutes a day in the third grade, I began to wonder how this would affect visual art. Take for instance this work:


Written in French, the letters in René Magritte's La trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) (1929) can be identified by the reader. An accompanying gallery label would aid further in translating the text. But with more and more students less inclined to write in cursive at a young age, one can't help but also wonder how well they would visually identify and comprehend it. The text of this work is crucial to the point the artist is trying to make about the perception of visual art.

As mobile phones and computers become the main forms of communication nowadays, is this a sign that English cursive is actively on its way to hieroglyphic status? Fortunately we still have time; canvases aren't optioned with an electronic signature just yet.

Devi Noor