Gelett Burgess and cursive writing

cursive When I was younger, well, let us say much younger, back in the day when recess consisted of jump robes and hopscotch, there was one event that occurred which truly made you feel as though you were growing up. It was the time when the teacher announced that she was going to teach us how to write in cursive. Writing in cursive was a rite of passage…a style of penmanship that was introduced at the very end of second grade…directly before summer vacation… so that it gave you just a hint of what would be in store for you when you returned to third grade.

Writing in cursive separated you from the lower elementary classes; for if you could write it then you could also read it; with its swirly letters flaunting curlicues and slants… like deciphering a secret language… it was called “script”.

But today the teaching of cursive is becoming more and more obsolete… so much so that there are debates whether or not they should demote it from scholarship at all… Some arguments contest that it an antiquated skill; a form of writing that is not needed with the advent of computers and the like.
So, like many other things we may find that it will become a lost art, out with the old and in with the new…. However what will really be lost with its notoriety of becoming passé will be the extinction of a youthful celebration in one’s life.

Gelett BurgessToday blog brings back the esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American poet, artist, and humorist. Best noted for his iconoclast creations, the Goops, those less than perfect children! As an illustrator, Burgess created not only the persona of his characters, but also what they looked like, round headed and wiggly!

From his book titled More Goops and How Not to Be One (1908), I have extracted the poem “Write Right”. For those of you who may have encountered a ‘stringent’ penmanship teacher in your youth, this may hit home a wee bit more!

“If you were writing with your nose,
You’d have to curl up, I suppose,
And lay your head upon your hand;
But now, I cannot understand,
For you are writing with your pen!
So sit erect, and smile again!
You need not scowl because you write,
Nor hold your fingers quite so tight!
And if you gnaw the holder so,
They’ll take you for a Goop, you know!”

First image: Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C., Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer, 1899?

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