I laughed at this cartoon when I came across it the other day - well, shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot trying to combat a vague sense of anxiety, more than laughed, I guess.  Yes, I'm a dinosaur.  We've documented it here so often before.  This was just another reminder. 

Then I showed it to my daughter (the newly minted teacher) to see what she thought.  And for emphasis, I added the information that, in my hometown, cursive has just been struck from the curriculum - hit by a meteor at last and destined to become quaint hieroglyphics to future generations.

As with most things, she's keeping an open mind. It's one of her best qualities.

She replied that it remains to be seen whether penmanship was important for fine motor development or not, whether those hours and hours of practice we endured actually benefited us in some way.  Or whether today's kids might be better served by spending the time learning about technologies that have a direct impact on the world they live in and the one they will grow into.

She was right, of course.

And I guess my anxiety actually comes from a worry that words themselves might become extinct.  I wonder whether kids can have the kind of relationship I have with words if they are never given the opportunity to master their creation from the ground up - to tame hands and pencils and use them to give tangible shape and meaning to their thoughts. I guess it remains to be seen.

Maybe - keeping an open mind - the speed at which kids can connect words using all the technologies at their fingertips will allow them an even freer rein, to think faster and to record those thoughts and feelings in words more completely and accurately than ever before.

Back when I studied writing in college, 

I was working on a manual typewriter.  I had to really want every word.  The beast had a very stiff touch and a reluctant return, and every error meant one kind of messy and time-consuming correction or another.  Usually I wrote first drafts longhand, on a yellow pad, then refined them on my trusty typewriter.  I was continually frustrated that my hands could never quite move at the speed of my mind. I can't imagine how much work I might have turned out if I had possessed the technology that I do now.  On the other hand, each completed piece might have felt less satisfying.  We love most the things for which we work hardest.

Recently I've been enjoying the book poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  Actually, I've been savoring every word.  The book is just a celebration of words, really - poetry reduced to its most basic components. If you are a lover of ideas, and more specifically of the magical ways in which words can convey meaning, you should pick it up. 

"Poetry has an interesting function.  
It helps people be where they are."
 -- Gary Snyder 

If words strung perfectly help us "be" where we are, and perhaps more importantly, understand where others are, then I guess I should make room for the possibility that words will always be much more than the sum of the letters that create them, and that how they come together is immaterial.

And if that's the case, I guess I need to let kids be where they are, and that is definitely in a world of fonts.  Not penmanship.


Leenie said...

I'm there. I laughed uncomfortably at the cartoon. I've been known to complain about the lack of handwriting classes in school. I feel the worry about words becoming extinct. (This is being fed by my reading, for the second time in a month, "Fahrenheit 451.")

A lighter book about font fanatics is "A Good Year for Plums" by Bailey White. I could so relate to an artist who is obsessed with painting painstakingly detailed portraits of chickens and a type setter who appreciates the wonderful qualities of type faces but hates Mistral and/or Brush Script.

I have a copy of "Poem Crazy" left over from a long ago writing class. Guess I'll put it in my reading lineup. It should be a nice relief from Ray Bradbury. Thanks.

Allie said...

My boys have forgotten cursive - they're on the computer way too much. I still prefer to write my lists longhand, I used to write everything longhand - poems - stories - and I don't do any writing anymore. It's sad to think that kids aren't loving pencils and paper but instead, laptop keys and computer screens. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, lol!

Pam said...

I loved my grandmother's handwriting. It was beautiful- a legacy she said from being taught by very strict nuns. She died in the early 1980's, and I treasure her handwritten correspondence, so much nicer than computer print-outs.
Husband on the other hand, thinks font choices are great - he hates his spidery handwriting.

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