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: > >http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040628/ap_on_re_us/bad_handwriting > >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
Headline: PASSING OF PENMANSHIP; DESPITE THE PREVALENCE OF COMPUTERS AND E-MAIL , GOOD HANDWRITING IS STILL IMPORTANT, ADVOCATES SAY:
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. Phew! 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 legibility. "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 hurting." 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 society. "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 order." 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 scratch. 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 hospitals. 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, `yes!'"