Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Writing’s on the Wall

So I was lounging around in bed this morning, trying to fight past the raging headache that threatened to leave me paralyzed from the brainstem down, while feebly struggling to free myself from the tangled mass of bed sheets that had turned into hateful ropes during the night, chaining me to the bed like some kind of drunken Prometheus waiting for his liver to be torn from his stomach and eaten.

And to make myself properly prepared for the day ahead, I turned on the news, to feed my mind with the important issues of the day, like the inmate who gouged out and ate his own eyeball, (it wasn’t the first time he’d done it either. I guess raw eyeballs are really delicious), the worsening economy and the attack of the Killer Mutant Peanut Butter that is currently devastating this great country of ours.

But the thing that really stuck out, the most vital topic of the morning news, was how schools are fazing out teaching cursive handwriting. I, for one, cannot tell you just how shocked I was to learn that they’re still bothering to teach people how to write at all! Don’t we have computers for that shit these days?

Of course the news anchor had to take the moral high ground that not teaching little kids cursive will lead to the downfall of Western Civilization, making us China and India’s bitch, (and in all honesty, he’s right. It’s not the recession/depression that’s going to bring America down; it’s the fact that kids don’t know how to draw a cursive “S”.)

What’s so special about writing in cursive? It doesn’t improve what people actually write, especially with the inane things most people write about these days anyway. Writing in cursive, for the majority of The Great Unwashed, is kind of like gift-wrapping dog shit. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In fact, I’d go far as to say that writing in cursive is ridiculously overrated. The only thing you really need to know how to write in cursive is your name, (unless you’re one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of girls who, in elementary, middle and high school, have practiced writing my last name, excited for the day when we’d finally be joined in marital bliss*).

Take doctors for instance. They’re infamous for having handwriting worse than a Parkinson’s victim. Michael J. Fox has a super steady hand compared to those in the medical community. But that doesn’t make them worse doctors. You can’t judge a person based on whether he can write in cursive or not, and you can’t judge the fall of a society based on how many people connect their letters while writing their poorly-spelled letters to Penthouse.

Interviewer: Well Bob, Deacon is far more qualified for this job. He’s got way more experience and even wrote the handbook we’ve trained our other employees on. On the other hand, I love the way you do that loop thing with your capital “L”. So you’re hired!

Bob: Hooray for me!

If anything, we should worry less about whether people are writing in cursive or not, and focus more on spelling, grammar and syntax. Because to me, a well written and executed sentence counts for a lot more than if it’s in print or cursive.

What we need to do is attack this new “text speak.” Why isn’t our collective dander up about that nonsense? When I have kids, I won’t care if “ I’ll see you later” is written in print or cursive, as long as it’s not written “I C U L8R.” Now that’s some bullshit!

I personally quit using cursive around my freshman year of high school. It was lame and I wanted to develop a more distinctive and unique style of writing. So for the next three years I practiced writing in print in a new style until I came up with something that is entirely me and very identifiable. When somebody sees something I wrote, they know its origin, (on the other hand, I’m still proficient in cursive and use it when I’m hiding my hand writing. A true Evil Genius has multiple writing styles for every occasion.)

There’s one problem with my writing style: it’s slow. If I were to try to take notes like a normal person, I’d be screwed because I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Maybe that’s why in college, instead of taking notes, I just wrote jokes to myself during class. This would explain why I got kicked out.

But, like all good journalists, I developed my own shorthand. I’ve interviewed thousands of people and you can’t always tell them to stop or repeat themselves while you’re trying to write, (especially since most people can’t remember what they said no more than 30 seconds earlier. It’s true. Try having somebody repeat a point, word-for-word that they just told you, and they won’t be able to. Their minds are already somewhere else. God Bless ADD) it’s just not conducive to good interviews. So, you come up with shortcuts and tricks to make you go faster. And you know what? My shorthand doesn’t use cursive and yet I’m still able to write decent stories.

In the end; cursive or print: does it really even matter? In this day and age, isn’t there something more, I dunno…important to blame for the downfall of man?

*Sorry to disappoint you ladies, but it ain’t gonna happen. Can’t tame this Wild Stallion!

1 comment:

KateGladstone said...

I would add that cursive doesn't even matter for writing your name -- legally, signatures don't require cursive (whatever your mom or dad or teacher may have believed, and told you, about the matter) Don't believe me? Ask any lawyer! (Anyone telling you that signatures require cursive has misrepresented the law of the land.)

In any case, the fastest and most legible handwriters tend to avoid cursive. Research shows that the fastest, most legible handwriters join only some letters -- making the easiest joins, skipping the rest -- and use print-like shapes for letters whose shapes "disagree" between cursive and printing.

Kate Gladstone