Lib Campbell: A tisket, a tasket

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2024

By Lib Campbell

“A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket. I wrote a letter to my love and on the way, I lost it.” We seem on the verge of losing many things. Writing letters to one another, if not yet a lost art, is changing. Cursive writing is out of style and out of classrooms. Losing the ability to write a journal or a letter seems a steep loss in a world losing connection in many areas of life. 

Can you remember the three-lined notebook paper and the No. 2 pencil in your hand copying cursive letters from a chalkboard? I do. I wrote Libby over and over, filling a page until finally my letters looked like what the teacher had written. There are students in the United States who may never have that experience because many school systems have dropped cursive writing out of their curriculum. 

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education struck cursive writing from the core curriculum for public schools. By 2013, 44 states had adopted the “no cursive” mantra. Today, only 24 states require that cursive be included in curricula for second to fifth grades. You will be happy to know that North Carolina is one of those states. Good on us. 

Part of the reasoning to drop cursive was “the time requirements for teaching cursive in the classrooms would be better spent on new skills like coding and keyboarding.” (Edutopia, 2023). With the wide use of computers in classrooms today, there is no question that skills for keyboarding and coding are valuable for students to learn. But this is not a binary argument. 

When I was at Duke, one of the great joys was going to the climate-controlled room where historical documents and rare books were kept. Librarians with gloves would bring letters and journals written by John Wesley and other figures of history so students could read people’s thoughts in their own words. I read slave narratives written in their own words. The Constitution is written in cursive. Some cursive is written with flourishes that look like calligraphy.  

Journals and letters tell our history before anything automated was available. When and if cursive goes by the wayside, without AI translators, that history is lost to us. Perhaps some people would like it if history were lost. History tends to implicate us in wrongdoing, like 1619, the Edmund Pettis Bridge, and Viet Nam. 

There is a case to be made for accommodation to those with reading differences, like dyslexia. Reading and writing are hard for them, particularly cursive. F’s and J’s written in cursive look like mirror images of one another. Bless the special ed teachers who are so faithful in loving and teaching our kids.

We lose skills all the time. Many cannot read the face of a clock, requiring digital clocks to tell time. Others cannot count change. When the cash registers are down, they are at a loss. That happened to us one time. The young person on the cash register said we would have to leave our purchases on the counter and come back when the registers were working again. 

Computers and automation have made a lot of things easier… until a glitch occurs. And God forbid the grid goes down. We are very machine-centric today. Even automobiles are computer driven. Dependence on things beyond the human capacity seems to be a trend as more and more is taken over by electronics. 

Cursive writing may be an old-timey skill. Still, I think it is valuable. Emails and texts don’t have the same romantic overtones as handwritten letters. 

The elegance and eloquence of handwriting is increasingly a lost art. Interesting how that loss coincides with the loss of inspirational oratory and persuasive rhetoric. Oratory today is mostly insult and degradation. 

But I still have hope that the history being written about us today will be fair and instructive to a future that will want to know how we got to where we are. I hope people yet unborn will be able to read it. What a loss when family members cannot read letters, boxes of them, written by grandparents and great-grandparents. They tell a story of love, grief, loss, travel, war, struggle and things yet unresolved. How will they know who we are?

I hope we won’t lose the ability to write and read one another’s thoughts, truth, feelings and our love for one other. Journals and letters hold the historical record of a bygone era. Losing the skill to read a hand-written letter or journal seems a shame. 

Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at