The Vanishing Art Of Handwriting

Eleven year-old Nabeel Khaliq is reflected in the table glass as he demonstrates the cursive writing style which earned him first place in the 2002 World Handwriting Contest of Handwriting for Humanity in his Toronto, Ontario, home on Tuesday, April 29, 2003
At the Hunter College Elementary School in New York, CBS News correspondent Rich Schlesinger reports that second-graders are learning what could become a lost art: handwriting.

Says 8-year-old Asha, "I writed messy when I was four, but it got better and better."

These young students are learning their lesson, but a lot of older students seem to have forgotten it. That has left teachers clucking about chicken scratch that is almost illegible.

How is handwriting these days? "Bad," says Kansas University professor Tina Blue. "No, let me re-phrase that: terrible."

In Blue's poetry class, words matter. But reading the words her students write is getting harder.

"The students are keyboarding from the time they're in grade school," she says of the kids' use of computers rather than handwriting. These days, students rely not just on the computer, but on text messaging to write to each other. So when they put pen to paper, the results can be pretty tough to read.

Kyle Akers works with computers now — and judging by the way he scrawls a handwritten report, it's probably better that way

"It could be weeks before I actually hand-write something," he says. "I send e-mails instead of writing letters. I use instant messaging."

Computers don't get all the blame for the decline of handwriting. A recent survey of elementary school teachers showed that almost 90 percent of those questioned feel they have not been trained well enough to teach handwriting.

That's why Jan Olsen started a company to teach a simpler form of handwriting, particularly cursive writing, which many teachers fear is on the brink of extinction.

"I think you can say bye-bye to the old-fashioned cursive — the curlicues, the loop-do-loops, the frills and the slanties," Olsen says.

It's a dire prediction from someone Olsen who believes penmanship is part of scholarship.

But teachers can't know if the words are right if students don't know how to write the words.