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Handwriting on the wall for the end of 'writing purty'

July 08, 2013

In yet another overt stab at truth, justice and the American way, our godless public school system is looking to remove cursive handwriting from the national curriculum.

That’s correct, the flowing script you and I began to learn in second grade has now, in the eyes of the government, been rendered obsolete by computer keyboards and tablet touchscreens.

Even the New England Patriots have abandoned their cursive logo for block letters, and newspapers and blogs have gone on an “Is cursive dead?” societal introspection tour. You know the handwriting is on the wall, so to speak, when you see a discussion-board post saying, “OMG 4get cursive.”

I take it the move has been going on for some time, but it roiled to the surface of public consciousness last week when a witness in the Trayvon Martin case confessed that she “couldn’t read cursive.”

The public reacted much as it did in the ’70s when it discovered that the government had been sneaking fluoride into drinking water.

Legislatures — and not just southern legislatures — are already passing legislation requiring local school systems to teach cursive, federal guidelines be hanged.

(I love it when lawmakers try to leave their stamp on education, almost as much as I do when they try to dictate medical procedures. The only thing that would make it better is if these governments would require students to use inkpots and quill pens.)

And, of course, the predictable lineup of “Doctoral Cognitive Blusterflusses” has already stepped forward to explain how cursive writing somehow increases brain power and self-esteem.

Indeed, it is strange to think that in another two or three decades, historians will have to be specially trained in cursive code breaking to read letters written in the 20th century.

But on this issue, I must go against the flow of artistic letters tumbling across the page like wine flowing from a lead-crystal decanter.

My final salute to cursive is goodbye and good riddance. I hate cursive, and always have. I hated learning it, I hated reading it, I hated all the little girls who would dot their i’s with those stupid little circles, and first and foremost, I hated the fact that I couldn’t do it.

I despised people with beautiful handwriting, just as to this day I begrudge people who can carry a tune or sketch out an accurate facial rendering in a matter of seconds. Cursive is just one more gift I wasn’t given.

As with anything, this was part nature, part nurture. I wasn’t skilled at cursive, but — as a boy — neither did I necessarily want to be. Nothing would get you beaten up faster than if you — in the parlance of the rougher grade-school element — “wrote purty.”

There was some artistic line, intuited by every bully worth his salt, that you weren’t allowed to cross. I remember one school tough kid gazing at a friend’s paper with a focus normally associated with a religious trance. Eventually, he snapped out of it and gave my friend a hard, suspicious look before walking away — sort of like a cop who didn’t quite find enough probable cause to search your van.

My friend’s handwriting had been good, but not quite so good as to earn him a punch in the nose.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.


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