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The Japan Times,
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Regarding “The case against cursive writing,” Global Perspectives, Japan Times, September 20, 2013 I do not feel less of children or young adults who cannot write because they were not taught cursive handwriting in school. It is a laborious, lengthy, time-consuming lesson in an environment where teachers are called on to do so much more these days, and there is only so much one can do to satisfy the politicians and the parents. I don’t think schools have any obligations whatsoever to satisfy the expectations of business, because I don’t see it as the job of schools to prepare young people for the work force. That’s the responsibility of businesses after they hire fresh employees - to train them in their work. The responsibility of schools is to cultivate well-rounded, broadly literate people, critically thinking and self-motivated.
But my opinion of people is negatively affected when I meet adults who cannot sign their names. I’ve met North Americans like this, university graduates who sign their names in print like elementary school third graders. Commentary on their lack of cursive ability is met with blank stares, indicating that the failure goes beyond mere dexterity. It’s a problem because one’s signature - always executed in cursive script - is a legal vehicle, or has habitually been a legal vehicle used to authenticate and confirm documents like contracts, wills, passports, and applications, and to confirm identity as well. What will replace the legal stature of the signature if coming generations are cursive-challenged? Maybe Westerners will go the way of the official seal, like the Japanese “hanko” and “inkan,” developing some digital device like the signet rings of old, a device programmed with data to confirm our identity. Just press it to the pad or screen.
Or maybe we will devolve to a personal “mark,” like the “X” illiterate characters make in the movies. This seems to be what happened with U.S. Treasury Secretary J.J. Lew who was criticized for his crazy loop-de-loop signature (“U.S. Treasury chief ‘fixes’ unusual signature scribble,” Japan Times, June 20, 2013).
Published on Thursday, September 26, 2013 as "What will replace the signature?"