Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This is a specimen of my best Palmer handwriting…

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Which means more than the usual number of useless articles to read online. Or which, alternatively, means that I am more inclined to read more useless articles online.

In either case, now that I’m played out on the Royal Bébé, I’ve been clicking elsewhere, and came across plenty o’ nonsense.

There was the list of rules for wearing sunglasses in the office. (No croakies, no fluorescent frames.)

Then the one on Starbucks’ rolling out smartphone charging mats in some of its stores. Which would have been fine, if it hadn’t been for the completely nonsense headline: “Starbucks Adds Phone-Charging Stations. What's Next, Showers?” Showers? That’s quite a leap. I can think of a few things  - printers, maybe – that would make more sense as a What’s Next.

And don’t get me going on Anthony Weiner. (Did he really think that no one would figure out that he’d continued his sexting ways well after he resigned from Congress. Huma, Huma, Huma, easy to say, but I really do think that you can do better than Carlos Danger. Speaking of Carlos Danger, Slate has a nifty Carlos Danger name generator. Mine is Mateo Covert. My husband’s is Diego Menace. Huma Abedin’s is Ricardo Calamity.)

So it was almost a relief to come up with a sober and nuanced article on the decline and fall of cursive, which I ran into on CNN.

One young whippersnapper  - 26 years old -  recalled his penmanship lessons:

"I remember I hated it and I told my teacher I thought it was dumb," he says…"I don't even think I know how to write in cursive anymore."

There’ll be plenty more like him as time marches on, that’s for sure.

There are only a handful of states that even have a writing requirement (printing or cursive) anymore. Massachusetts is one of them, so at least our citizens will have a non-oral form of communication at their fingertips if there’s a nationwide electronics meltdown.

Technology is constantly increasing communication speeds, often anticipating words before our brains can send signals to our fingers.

And as anyone who’s ever hit “send” before reading through their text message can tell you, the words that get anticipated are not always going to be the ones your brain wants to send. Meanwhile,

…experts say handwriting is being sacrificed for the sake of technology's convenience.

Wendy Carlson [is] a handwriting expert and forensic document examiner. Carlson works as an expert court witness, maintaining offices in Denver and Dallas. She says the dramatic decline of handwriting is causing "great" deterioration of the mind.

"Texting played a role in it because people are trying to write quick short sentences," she says. "People aren't using their minds and they are relying on technology to make the decisions for them."

I’ll buy that those who’s sole form of written communication is texting (or, in the case of Carlos Danger, sexting) may not be thinking things as fully through as you do when you’re dipping your quill pen in ink and writing on parchment. Still, just because you’re writing “quick short sentences” doesn’t mean you’re “relying on technology to make [your] decisions for [you].” Or in the case of Carlos Danger, relying on something other than technology to make the decisions for him.

Carlson says cursive writing combines mental and physical processes which involve both sides of the brain. She says she's noticed that the number of people who write cursive decreases as technology becomes the most dominant means of communication.

"If you are typing or texting, it's a matter of punching and finger-moving," she says. "You are doing very little thinking because you are not allowing your brain to form neural processes."

I do know that when I’m handwriting a note, I have to think ahead about what I’m writing in a way that I don’t do when I’m typing. But when I’m typing – as in this blog – I’d like to think that I’m doing a little more than “punching and finger-moving.” Maybe my brain is forming a different neural process, but it’s not as if I’m just mindlessly moseying around the keys as if I were channeling to a Ouija Board. (Even if, at times, it might seem as if that’s the case.)

In any case, I don’t want to see the decline of cursive.

Who doesn’t feel great when they get something handwritten in the mail, let alone a love note left for you? (Okay, that love note is apt so be asking me to pick something up a Gary Drug. But it does have an XXX on it.)

I think that cursive should be taught, if only to teach patience and stick-to-it-ive-ness, and fine motor skills that involve something more than the opposable thumb.

My writing isn’t the greatest, but it’s decent enough. And I would definitely survive in case of catastrophic electronics failures. Just think of it. If the worst happens, us Baby Boomers would be called on to keep civilization alive. We might end up like those Irish monks who manually transcribed the imageexisting body of Western knowledge when the barbarians got beyond the gates, and a darkness settled in on Europe.

When I was in grammar school, we learned the Palmer method, and had to write out samples, fall and spring, to show that we could write cursive. Wonder what became of them. Perhaps there’s a warehouse in the Diocese of Worcester with bales full of Palmer penmanship specimens.


For an earlier take on this topic, see The Lost Art of Penmanship. (Cursive! Foiled again.)

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