In an increasingly digital world, the personal signature endures. The process of handwriting our names usually evolves from an elementary-school scrawl to a stylized script. We use our signature to mark everything from school yearbooks to legal documents. Famous signatures dot our history — think John Hancock’s on the Declaration of Independence, for example — and our favorite autographed souvenirs.
Most signatures don’t sell for millions, but they are invaluable when getting a passport, obtaining a mortgage or using a credit card, among other daily activities. To create a personalized signature, we must first learn how to write by hand, and signatures reinforce the importance of teaching today’s students how to do so.
Why Signatures Are Still Important
Signatures have a long and interesting history, but they first became legally binding in 1677 when the English Parliament enacted what is commonly know as the Statute of Frauds, which required contracts to be written and signed by the parties involved. That requirement soon spread around the globe, and handwritten signatures have been an essential part of our individual identities ever since.
You might have spent years perfecting your signature’s every stroke, or you might just squiggle a couple of loops and call it a day. Either way, that signature belongs to you. A person’s signature and their handwriting, which they probably developed sometime in middle school, can indicate more than 5,000 different personality traits, according to graphologists, who study handwriting to infer a person’s character.
Though many people are emotionally attached to their handwritten signature, e-signatures are gaining ground for reasons of convenience and, sometimes, security.
“As society becomes more digitized and individuals become increasingly time poor, we’re starting to see a more optimistic attitude when it comes to the potential of e-signatures for important approvals and identity confirmations,” said Mark Greenaway, director of emerging businesses at Adobe, in a recent article on the pros and cons of handwriting and e-signatures.
But for now, the unique handwritten signature remains an important symbol of trust and authenticity.
Handwriting in the Brave New World
Children need time and practice to develop a signature. It’s another exhibit in the case for teaching handwriting in schools.
States continue to debate whether cursive writing should be part of the curriculum. Fourteen states currently require it, and others are considering whether and how to incorporate it.
Advocates for keeping cursive in the classroom cite research that shows handwriting offers important cognitive benefits to youngsters’ brains in addition to enhanced coordination and motor skills. Learning to read and write in cursive also means that students can read and learn from historical documents.
“Children are shortchanged if they’re not taught a good, clean script that’s constantly reinforced throughout the 12 grades,” wrote Kitty Burns Florey, author of the book “Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting,” in an essay for Huffington Post. “Nobody should graduate from high school without knowing how to write — meaning both to compose a grammatical sentence and to set it down neatly and quickly. We may not turn to handwriting every day, but we use it often enough that it should be always, as it were, at our fingertips: fast, reliable, legible.”