It seems like every time I go to see my grandparents, I get to hear about how schools everywhere suck, period, full stop. They live in Virginia and their most recent exposure to public education was what my sister and I got, so they can be forgiven for a lot of that. I’d even be willing to just nod and agree if he Pappa didn’t think that meant defunding schools in Wisconsin and persecuting teachers here, where the public education is pretty solid, was a good idea. (I like living in a city where the baristas generally have PhDs.) But what really gets me is when he cites, as he’s prone to do, not teaching cursive as evidence to support his claim. “Can you believe that! Not teaching cursive!”
Well, yeah, I can believe it. What’s more, I think it’s a brilliant idea.
This isn’t just my abysmal penmanship and my “I taught myself to type when I was eight,” talking. In fact, I taught myself to type precisely because I have abysmal penmanship and figured it was that, or I’d have to give up the writing thing I was pretty big into at the time. (It was a phase. I totally grew out of it. Then I keeled over dead. Fifty years from now.) I never did get an A in penmanship, which set me up for an academic career wherein I always got credit for being utterly brilliant, but didn’t get straight As until college. But let’s set all that aside because I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m well educated despite what I got in school growing up. Let’s instead look at the harsh realities of modern times.
I’m going to use myself as an example of a successful modern adult. I graduated from a well respected school on time, with a double-major and honors. I’ve never had an involuntary gap in my employment longer than a week, and that involved relocating across time zones. I own a home, a cat, and several house plants which are all maintained in good condition. I take care of relevant members of my family and have a healthy social life. Also, despite a few marginally serious accusations of psychopathy and a couple blatant attempts to solicit it, I’ve never been arrested or in jail. I am, in short, the poster child for a pre-married American adult.
I haven’t used cursive since middle school. I was using it because it was required by the class. My teacher then requested that I start typing my papers because my handwriting was giving her headaches.
I’ve never been asked to use cursive in a job, or a job interview. I have, however, impressed coworkers and bosses by getting work done impressively quickly, an ability I attribute to typing 100wpm at my peak rather than particular competence on my part. This speedy turnaround is, in fact, a major part of why I can seem to shed the job that keeps paying my mortgage and bills and feeds my cat despite several attempts to do just that.
Oh, and I’m a published writer who maintains a wordy blog. Still no cursive involved. Hell, I barely even sign my name on contracts since I have a copy of my signature saved as a GIMP file and tend to just C/P it onto documents and email them back rather than going the print-and-fax route.
Cursive has in no way at all contributed to my success. That time I spent learning cursive could have been spent on something useful, like Spanish, or an actual history curriculum, or letting me sit in a corner with a book or keyboard. Granted, I was eager to learn cursive when I finally got around to it because it was the pretty handwriting adults use and I have consistently been obsessed with getting to be an adult. And then I was eager to find a way to be an adult despite my clear inability to master the art of legible cursive. Fortunately for me, the world moved on into the future and typing is where it’s at.
“But what about when you because a famous writer and have to go on book tours and write notes to people in their books?” retort my grandparents. An cogent point. An excellent point. What about that future where I get to visit awesome cities and have legions of adoring fans beg to have my penmanship vandalize their precious books?
My first response is usually to snort. And my second response? “What books? Everybody reads on a Kindle now.”