Cursive and signatures are on the comeback. It’s not just an ancient skill. We use our signatures quite often to sign things like checks, credit card transactions, health club contracts, mortgage contracts, wills, driver’s licenses, and state IDs, and more importantly, for voting. For the youth, cursive and signature writing gives them a chance to have a unique fingerprint, solidify their identity (as no two signatures are alike), and discover the importance of signatures with current and historical documents.
Why is it important, and what has been the impact on society and culture?
Scientists say that cursive helps the brain develop cognitive and fine motor skills.
According to Psychology Today, William R. Klemm, Ph.D. states that in his research, he has found that “scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of the brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters instead of typing or just visual practice.”
For African Americans, signatures have meant different things throughout history. As slaves were taken from Africa, black people coming to a new world brought tribal languages with them along with robust cultures. The ancestors remembered their old country, and the bridled responsibility of learning a new way, a forced American culture. Reading and writing were forbidden for slaves and allowed the slave master to control uprisings and foster fear and hopelessness, which helped break down the mind, body, and soul. Lack of education helped keep runaways unable to communicate with other slaves and find their way off the plantation. Because slaves were considered property, they only were able to sign their names with an X. This created confusion and chaos in the minds of slaves, creating a false sense of identity, which held them back from having a voice and certain freedoms as a human being.
Today, the suppression we face in the 21st century is in the form of voting control and freedom of expression. Our ancestors imagined a glorious day that slaves would be free. Yet, black and brown people still have to continuously deal with systematic and social issues of oppression and prejudice, a cause for which many of the ancestors have so rightfully given their lives. Voter suppression is one tactic by the powers that be to try to keep people of color and other races from having a voice concerning who wins elections and where money and resources are allocated. Signatures hold the utmost importance now more than ever. They represent the right to vote with freedom of expression, making a bold statement, and heralding a strong voice in this ever-changing world (amid this newly charged American social revolution).
Cursive writing and signatures have also been used through the ages to write letters to loved ones, encourage people in times of chaos in wars, poverty, and famine. Penmanship writing can be a way to show thoughtfulness and consideration to loved ones and to communicate thought effectively. Knowing how to read and write in cursive and make your signature holds historical value for black and brown people. It represents the journey about where we have come from, what we have had to endure, and how far we will go to seek justice and freedom for the people.
Where can you find cursive on the comeback in education?
Cursive, letter-writing, and signatures are on the comeback. There are several ways to learn cursive writing for youth. Educators in Illinois are now teaching the cursive curriculum, starting in 2nd grade up to 5th grade. Because of remote learning, there is no excuse why a child should not be able to sign their name by the 5th grade. For adults, it’s also easy as 1-2-3! There are practice worksheets available in workbooks, printable worksheets from the internet on Youtube, various educational sites, and apps to get the brain thinking and muscle memory working.
Why is it important now to our youth?
For the past decade, cursive was taken out of the common core curriculum, especially in Illinois. This left many children without the knowledge of knowing how to sign their names and the meaning of its importance. In 2017, Illinois’s cursive writing came back into the curriculum with the proposal by Illinois Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of the 7th district.
Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford was one who also helped champion the Illinois Cursive bill. She also uses this initiative to help educate students, garner resources for learning, and foster relationships with the community. “Cursive writing is a skill children will need throughout their lives,” Lightford said. “You cannot write a check, sign legal documents, or even read our Constitution without an understanding of cursive writing.”
According to the Cursive Law, “Districts would determine by local policy at what grade levels this learning would be implemented as long as students receive the instruction by grade 5.” Under House Bill 2977, schools have been required to offer 1 unit of cursive writing, which began in the 2018-2019 school year.
 James, Karin H. an Atwood, Thea P. (2009).The role of sensorimotor learning in the perception of letter-like forms: Tracking the causes of neural specialization for letters. Cognitive Neuropsychology.26 (1), 91-100.