Lots of people are disturbed about the trend away from teaching cursive writing. I’m among them.
I’ve been told I have nice handwriting. This would come as a complete shock to Mrs. Shoemaker, my sixth grade teacher, who was so disgusted by penmanship that she actually told me I should learn to type at the earliest opportunity.
I say the deck was stacked. If your handwriting didn’t look exactly like Mrs. Shoemaker’s, you were guaranteed a check mark in the “needs improvement” box on your report card, and (in my case) several despairing notes to the parental units:
“Michael seems unwilling to improve his penmanship.”
“Michael’s sloppy penmanship remains a problem. I misread a line in his book report on ‘Guadalcanal Diary’ as “Vivian Vance has a big butt.’”
“Are you quite sure Michael is right-handed?”
This was back when schools still championed the Palmer Method of handwriting instruction. We Palmer Method students have a bond forged by spending countless hours with our Scripto cartridge pens, making endless rows of circles and loops on sheets of lined paper while our teachers stood over us with cattle prods, reminding us to use our hands and arms, not our fingers, to guide the writing instruments.
I think this business of using the arm to form letters is what has caused my generation to develop shoulder problems later in life. And I believe the method of instruction instilled in us a deep sympathy for cattle.
Because of handwriting, teachers also used to wonder if my older sister Vicky and I were really related. You remember that alphabet banner that was always posted over the blackboard in every school room? My sister’s handwriting looks exactly like that. According to my teachers, if Vicky were really my sister, good handwriting would be encoded in my DNA. Which, when I wrote it, looked like “BMW.”
Then came high school, when I discovered a talent for forgery. It came about when my father’s paycheck was mailed to the house and he wasn’t around to endorse it. Jean Yunker at the bank told Mom that any reasonable facsimile of Dad’s signature would suffice, so I filled up a notebook page with Patrick H. Redmonds and by the time I got to the last one, you couldn’t tell my version of Dad’s signature from the genuine article.
And didn’t that open some doors. Not only did my handwriting get better, but I no longer had to worry about unexcused absences, report cards, or permission slips. And here’s the beauty part: Nobody ever asked how Dad could be signing all these documents when I went to high school in LaGrange, Indiana and he lived 561 miles away in Washington, D.C.
But back to the issue at hand. I’ve heard all the arguments against teaching cursive – about how nobody uses it because we do all our communicating with e-mail and text nowadays. And I think it’s horse hockey. You still have to sign checks and contracts.
So kids, learn cursive. If not the Palmer Method, try the Mike Method: Copy from your parents.
And when you sign your own note to the teacher saying you were sick when you were really home playing video games, as you surely will, remember the first rule: Make sure you spell “pneumonia” correctly. I had a close call with that one.