Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

September 25, 2012

The write stuff

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 my 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."

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