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Topic: Forward! Into the Past
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jul 19, 2004 9:00 PM

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Domenico Rosa

Posts: 455
Registered: 12/4/04
Re: Forward! Into the Past
Posted: Jul 19, 2004 9:00 PM
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On 28 Jun 04 17:32:20 -0400 (EDT), Michael Paul Goldenberg wrote:
>Here's fodder for Dom Rosa and other educational nostalgia buffs'
>wettest dreams:
>I can just imagine the Ruth Walkers, Wayne Bishops, and other
>dinosaurs howling [...] But never fear! According to an article in
>yesterday's NY TIMES MAGAZINE, cell phones and instant messaging
>are now so ubiquitous that their "elite" status is just a fantasy.
>So EVERYONE who failed to practice handwriting (or spelling, that
>other key to all that is good on Earth) with all due diligence,
>will surely be sent to the 7th circle of SAT hell in 2005.

The following article, sent from my local public library via ProQuest,
provides a different take on penmanship.

Dom Rosa

The Hartford Courant 13 July 2004 Page D1


Byline: WILLIAM WEIR, Courant Staff Writer.

Thank goodness for technology. With e-mail delivering us from
the need for the handwritten note, so too does it deliver all
future generations from the drudgery of penmanship instruction.
Actually, penmanship lessons continue in elementary schools,
albeit with some modifications. But why continue this antiquated
discipline at all? Why not just conduct the lessons with quills
filled with ink from boiled tree bark?
Object all you want; penmanship's proponents aren't letting go.
Indeed, they say, we take our penmanship for granted at the peril
of our self-identities and even society as a whole.
Oregon's Barbara Getty, who writes handwriting instruction books
and gives seminars with her partner, Inga Dubay, says care in
penmanship is more than just sentimental clinging to a dying art,
but a matter of practical necessity. She notes that post offices in
larger cities often need full-time workers who specialize in the
art of deciphering sloppily written addresses.
Janice Robart, a mail carrier in Guilford, has no such luxury
and often has to fend for herself when it comes to the script-
challenged. She's astounded by some of the writing she sees on her
route. She's become fairly well versed in decoding it, but still
has to flag some people down occasionally and plead for more
"It's usually businessmen who are sending important mail," she says.
If our collective handwriting has gone downhill, Peggy Jones has
nothing to do with it. Jones, who teaches at Calvin Leete
elementary school in Guilford, says penmanship instruction has
remained pretty much the same in her classroom as it was when she
started teaching 34 years ago.
She doesn't go along with the view that technology has rendered
longhand obsolete. Even if no one ever picked up a pen and pad
again, there always will be historically important letters, like
those written by Civil War soldiers or the Declaration of
Independence. If you can't write cursive, she says, you probably
can't read it. As such, she says, her students learn handwriting
the way they always have -- writing, writing, writing.
Other elementary school educators in the area agree that
penmanship has remained a major role in their schools, even if
keyboard instruction has taken up a place in the lower grades.
But some say instruction doesn't go far enough and blame the
notion that computers can adequately fill the role that pen and pad
once did. The people at Zaner-Bloser, an Ohio publisher of
handwriting textbooks, note that most classrooms have only a few
computers at the most. And even the most technologically plugged-in
still write Post-it notes and to-do lists in longhand, says Richard
Northup, vice president of Zaner-Bloser. We're just not as good at
it as we once were.
"Just take a look at the writing out there," he says. "We're
Kathy Feig, a professional calligrapher in Canada, has long
advocated more intensive penmanship lessons in elementary schools.
Handwriting is a form of self-expression and when we can't read our
own writing, she says, there's a certain disconnect we have from
ourselves. She admits there's no specific data to support her
theory, but Feig believes better penmanship means a better
understanding of ourselves, and subsequently a calmer, more stable
"I think if children could read their own handwriting, they
wouldn't have problems in high school," she says. "When our writing
is clearer, our thinking is clearer. It's just a theory, but
something there is connected. They want order, and writing is
And there's a more tangible reason: money. Some studies show
that millions of dollars are lost thanks to illegible scribbles,
and letters whose addresses are so ineptly marked that even postal
workers can't decipher them.
Some penmanship advocates believe writing by hand is natural
instinct that keyboards can't replace. The scrawls in animal blood
that lined caves and toddlers who take to the walls with whatever
tool they can get their hands on, serve as evidence.
"It just seems we've always wanted to express ourselves from the
cavemen on," Getty says.
Getty favors what she calls "Italic print." The form, which
dates to the 16th century, is straightforward and easy to read, she
says. Getty believes the loop-intensive Palmer method, long favored
by elementary school teachers, too easily falls into illegible
She points out that bad penmanship can be a matter of life and
death. A few years ago, the Institute of Medicine estimated that
7,000 people die every year as the result of medication errors.
Poor handwriting was one of the listed causes. To that end, Getty
and Dubay have made it their mission to improve doctors' writing.
They travel around the country giving handwriting seminars at
The idea that doctors have particularly bad penmanship is just a
myth, Getty said, but their writing makes "the ultimate impact."
Even with all the computers available, she says, up to 92 percent
of prescriptions are written in hand.
And even though nobody's life hangs in the balance of most
people's penmanship, she says, a nicely written handwritten note
goes a long way to making someone's day a little nicer. A poorly
written one, though, comes off as "mumbling on paper" and even a
little disdainful.
"So do I think we still need handwriting?" Getty says. "I say,

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