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A Crucial Lesson Kids No Longer Learn In School

Feather for Quill PenIn days past, binding agreements were made with little more than a handshake and two witnesses. A man’s word was his bond. As society grew more literate and writing instruments evolved, the signatures of both parties became a requirement for executing a legally binding agreement. Signatures, like that of the famous John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence, became marks of identity and proof of a legal bond, a practice that continues to this day.

Ironically, the age of technology may be creating a generation of adults who won’t know how to sign their own names.

Cursive Writing with Feathers

Prior to the computer revolution and the evolution of digital data, it was essential to be able to sign your name. For centuries, pens were the mainstay of written communication and cursive writing was the most common form of handwriting. Each writer possessed a distinctive “hand” or recognizable style, which still holds true today.The quill pen was the principle writing implement for a thousand years, longer than any other instrument. Quill pens were most commonly made from goose feathers. Interestingly enough, those feathers were considered to be of the highest quality when taken from live birds. Ouch!

The five outermost feathers, plucked from the left wing, were best suited to the grip of right-handed writers. The writer would dip the tip of the feather into an inkwell and use the heat from a coal-burning stove to dry the ink once applied to paper. Hawk, owl, eagle, and turkey feathers were also commonly used. Swan feather quills were the luxury writing instruments of the day, while crow feathers were used for fine line execution. 

With time, the quill pen evolved to the fountain pen - innovative in that it could carry its own ink - and eventually to the ball point and other modern writing implements we have today, but children's lessons in cursive writing continued to be a standard of the education process.

Student writing with a pen

Journal by Rory MacLeod CC 2.0

A Hot Debate: Cursive or Not

Recently, however, cursive writing was excluded from the newly developed education standards for US public schools.The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) developed the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the new set of education requirements adopted by 45 of the 50 United States. These standards, designed for kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12), outline the knowledge, skills, and abilities children should possess upon graduation from public school.

Removal of the cursive writing curriculum from K-12 learning standards has created a heated debate. Given the present age of technology and digital signatures, developers and strong supporters of the initiative deem keyboard and other computer skills more beneficial to children’s education, presuming cursive writing unnecessary for preparing students to compete in the workforce of the future.

Contrarily, those who wish to keep cursive writing in the curriculum see it as an art form with historical value and significance, an important skill that should not be allowed to fade into the annals of history. They believe cursive writing develops creativity, engages the mind, and trains the brain; stimulating the building of new brain cells. For children who will not learn cursive writing, a hand-written signature may well become obsolete.

Furthermore, historians wonder who will be qualified to read and translate the ancient texts anthropologists continue to discover, if generations to come can no longer read script. Although computers can be programmed to recognize certain characters, historians believe the best analyses of ancient writings are done with human eyes.

Writing Today

Consider your own needs. Have computers completely done away with your need for a pen? Do you still occasionally send a card or need to provide your physical signature? Not long ago, doom and gloom prophets were predicting the demise of the printed book industry - but consumers don't seem to be listening. Similarly, millions of pens are still being manufactured - and the process is fascinating. Precision equipment drills holes, injects ink, creates surface decoration, and executes testing on durability and functionality.

Watch this video demonstrating the amazing assembly process of a retractable ballpoint pen.

Moreover, pens are the largest selling, most popular promotional product in the world. That doesn't mean pen technology isn't changing to match reality, though. Unique products such as the pen/stylus are the new bridge between writing and technology, accompanied by a variety of additional styles to suit every purpose, including roller balls, retractable, gel-filled, markers, highlighters, and even the iconic fountain pen. The array of writing instruments utilizes erasable, permanent, colored, metallic, eco-friendly inks, and ergonomic shapes.

The pen appears to be here to stay but the battle surrounding cursive writing continues. Will cursive writing disappear? Time will tell.

In the meantime, your signature on a document is still your bond.

Dick Nelson, CEO of MARCO Promotional Products, has worked in the industry for nearly 30 years. Dick has never thought of his work as work, but rather as an intriguing place to spend his working hours. Away from the workplace, he enjoys playing golf, much of the time with his wife, and spending time with his children and grandchildren when he can.

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