Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Disappearing of John Hancock

Guess the real translation of the writing on Nebuchanezzar's wall was: "Sorry I have to deliver your doom this way. My keyboard and laser printer are broken."

The Washington Post reports that the handwriting's on the wall as far as, er, handwriting's concerned. This makes me a little sad. Kinda like the let's-get-rid-of-the-penny issue. How depressing that teachers are foregoing traditional cursive penmanship instruction, in favor of teaching to standardized tests and keyboarding.

I've always thought that handwriting was as distinctive a personal trait as a name or mannerisms. Though we were all forced to write one specific way when we were learning cursive (as demonstrated in the little handwriting workbooks we slaved over in elementary school), by junior high school everyone had launched out with his/her own personal style of writing.

Ah, those little writing books! It was a real milestone to begin cursive writing instruction in the 2nd grade (after Christmas - had to use block letters before Christmas). Very grown-up.

And can't you tell your friends' writing at a glance (all those notes passed back and forth, doncha' know)? Why, to this very day when I get a birthday or Christmas card, I can tell who it's from by the handwriting on the envelope. The twins, Sharon and Susan, write a lot alike, as expected, and in the style of our old handwriting practice books. Emily - neat, loopy. Linda - prints block letters, never liked cursive so I guess she'll be happy about its demise.

It's the same with family members. Daddy's handwriting was very scratchy with lots of parallel vertical strokes. Mother wrote small and neat - very readable. My cousin Ann likes to keep her lines straight so she uses a ruler (or appears to) that blunts the bottom of her letters. Daughter Kate writes neatly but very, very tiny. (Why is that, child?)

Many of my English friends' handwriting looks similar - though rounder and straighter than the way we were taught here. I've always wondered what their handwriting books looked like. I'll bet the cursive template is different from the one we Americans used.

So, yeah. I'm sad about losing cursive writing. As wonderful and readable as keyboarded or block letters are, the personality, the artistic bent, the frustration or elation of distinctive cursive writing will be lost. Seems sadly Orwellian somehow. Sigh.


Christa said...

Oh I used to love my writing books we had in school. It was like Christmas every time I had a new one that was unbroken, with it's white pages and straight lines that no one touched :D

In Sweden the handwriting they teach in schools have changed a lot throughout the years. The cursive kind (with was the old fashion one) that I learned vanished a few years afterwards and we could choose if we wanted to keep it or simplify it to look more like the new one. I kept the old fashion one.

When my son was in school, the cursive kind that I was taught was back again, and I honestly have no idea why they kept changing it. Rather silly if you ask me.

And today it's like a treasure when something handwritten ends up in the mailbox :D I love it. As you said, it's so much more personal and says a lot about a personality as well :D

PT said...

I don't think there's any one standard way of teaching hand-writing in England. Or maybe that's just how it appeared to me.

I know I wasn't very good at it, but it should still be taught to everyone.

I think, though, that at one point it seemed that having neat handwriting was more important than spelling or grammar. I know which I place more importance upon.

[preposition at the end of a sentence - 6/10]

jomoore said...

Thomas struggles with handwriting because he's left-handed, so it all takes a bit longer. His brain works faster than his hand and he just runs out of patience with it.

What's interesting, though, is that the school is apparently focussing on 'presentation' and handwriting, because standards are slipping. But it's OK if the children do their homework on the computer... Hmm...

I really remember how important it was (for us girls, anyway) to develop your own individual handwriting style. There was one who always dotted her i's with a little heart. And someone would have an interesting flourish to their g's and y's. I developed my own unique 'a'. It was derivative of the 'a' that's typewritten - this one - a. Anyway, it was impossible to read, so in my mid-twenties I had to purposefully change my handwriting to get rid of it...

Liz said...

Primary school teachers have very neat writing I find. Not partiularly attractive or individual but neat.

Peter (the other) said...

Strangely, in school of my youth, they had decided to get rid of the longhand (cursive). So I have stumbled along with block letters, that between the word processor and a bad case of essential tremor, is barely legible, even to doctors! It is a secret shame.

MaryB said...

Christa - I agree. There's nothing better than a hand-addressed envelope in the mail. I got a wonderful letter written in long-hand from a friend in Atlanta the other day. She'd dashed it off on yellow legal paper, but her cursive gave splendid personality to her words.

PT - grammer and spelling always come first (though those are going by the wayside, too), but legible (even barely legible) handwriting is a lifelong skill, as well.

Jo, I think I dotted my i's with little hearts for a couple of class periods in junior high school but decided it just wasn't for me. I do tend to flourish the ends of my y's and g's sometimes, though.

Liz, wonder what those primary school teachers really write like behind closed doors? ;-)

Lord, Peter, I'd've thought you'd have a really distinctive cursive style, your being a musician and all. We'll keep it a secret that you don't. :-O

Clare said...

I remember being very proud when I was allowed to use a fountain pen instead of a pencil in class - it seemed like such a big deal at the time. Then, being able to use biro when I got to secondary school was like being a grown-up - now I hardly use anything else (and defintely not fountain pens, mainly cos I get ink everywhere!)

My handwriting goes from legible to scrawl, depending on how fast I'm writing. But, it also changes depending on the pen I'm using at the time. I swear, when I was at school that my writing was worse when I used a black ink catridge instead of a blue one, which I don't really understand...