The Lost Art of Signatures

I have to renew my daughters’ passports.

Now that they are both over the age of 11, it is strongly suggested that they sign their applications. They’ll be legally required to do it once they turn 16.

This is causing some problems.

This morning I had them both practice writing their name and – this probably comes as a surprise to no one but me – they don’t actually know how to write their own names in cursive.

My two oldest got a year of cursive practice each, before it was officially phased out of the Ontario education system. My youngest never had any instruction at all, but she does know it exists and some girls in her class practice it and showed her how to make a few letters.

But it’s safe to say that none of my kids EVER does cursive writing. Frankly, I can barely read any of their PRINTING because it’s so awful. They spend more time typing than writing by hand and they should all definitely become doctors because that’s where their handwriting seems to be taking them.

(Although come to think of it, our doctor now prescribes things by printing out a form and just signing it, so guess the last hope for Those With Terrible Writing is now gone.)

Our oldest has had to sign a few things lately – he’s now 16 – and his signature is – sorry buddy – HILARIOUS. He doesn’t know how to write capitals in cursive so he signs with all lowercase, and writes so carefully and with so much intense pressure I think he is going to rip through the page every time.

The girls were just as awful. They’ve somehow managed to scrawl something on their passport applications but they have a long way to go to create something fluid that is also unique to them.

I wonder if this means that the whole notion of a “signature” is going to go away sometime soon. Perhaps we will just digitally sign things with a finger scan, or if paper is required, put down a thumbprint. Maybe we’ll go back to the days of signing with an “X” and then I’ll just have to notarize everything they sign.

These past couple of weeks, Gal Smiley has been working on a cool history project where they pick a Canadian soldier from WWI, get all their records from Archives Canada, then sift through and put together a picture of one soldier’s life. It required a LOT of reading of cursive – every medical report, enlistment document, and transfer document was written in cursive – and I had to translate for her like it was a foreign language.

It’s interesting how quickly cursive – the ability to read and write it – is vanishing. In just one generation it could be a lost skill.

So how will we sign things in the future? I wonder.

6 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Signatures

  1. My kids know cursive – they can read and write it – but neither has a ‘signature’. Basically, Kid#1 scrawls his and you can’t tell it’s anything at all, and Kid#2 prints his because he doesn’t like writing. I have no idea how this will go down on legal documents… I guess in the future it will all be biometrics and e-signatures?

  2. Marianne

    There has been a distinct downturn in the legibility of student printing over the past 5 to 10 years. It’s appalling.
    At the same time, my grade 4 daughter’s teacher just began introducing the class to cursive writing this week!

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