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Excuses, Excuses.

My kids get handwriting lessons in school. There's quite a lot of emphasis on it, it seems.

When I was a kid there was perhaps even more emphasis. During the three years I spent attending French schools (Ecole Emile Zola, Rochefort, France -- I believe the team was named the Angry Accusers. Hmmm.) there was near obsession with the skill. We wrote with fountain pens. I'm talking inkwells. Really. We formed teeny, tiny, ornate letters on four-lined cahiers. There were curlicues.

In those days I had pretty good handwriting. I now have the handwriting of a stroke victim. I have the handwriting of a man holding the pen in his right hand and a stripped power line in his left. (Yep, it's the three part comic tautology rule, so we need one more . . ..) I have the handwriting of a person in need of an exorcism.

I was just writing some notes to thank various people at the HarperDome (It's a cool place, the roof opens up and Rupert comes and goes by helicopter, tres supervillain,) and noticed that I can no longer write. I mix block letters with some weird melange (note the francais influence) of small letters and miss about a third of the letters and have to go back and squeeze them in, all the while alternating size from, let's say 8 point to about 24 point.

The result is almost illegible. I burned through ten cards in an attempt to produce four that could, arguably, be translated by a team of archeologist's specializing in hieroglyphics. If I got these cards in the mail I would think the author was unbalanced.

And we all know that's not the case. Right? Right? Shut up.

But I have an excuse: who writes with their actual hands anymore? Seriously, who handwrites?

I had an early warning of this trend when my son's pediatrician asked about the then-four-year-old Jake: "How are his skills at holding a pen?" And I answered, "Not that great, but he's amazing with a mouse." My daughter has the same issues. And yet the schools keep hammering away on handwriting. Isn't it, at this point, a bit like insisting on riding skills long after the advent of the Model-T?

I've been on computers since about the time we were doing our sixth or seventh Sweet Valley Twin. Since then, maybe 20,000 pages on computer, versus maybe 15 pages total by hand. Maybe 15 handwritten pages in as many years. It's no wonder my handwriting has suffered: it's an obsolete skill. Ten years from now will kids still be learning how to form letters? Or will we just accept that the keyboard, and later no doubt the hands-free brain-chip interface, is the way we write?

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“Excuses, Excuses.”

  1. Blogger Hallq Says:

    Here's what I wonder: as handwriting recognition technology improves, might handwriting become worthwhile again? Such technology as it exists is rather impractical, but it still is used on a few devices because it's more compact than a keyboard. On the other hand, improvements in voice recognition may make handwriting-based input devices unnecessary.

  2. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    I remember years ago seeing in an in-flight magazine the coolest business idea -- send this company a sample of your handwriting and they'll turn it into a font.

  3. Blogger kcore@vaguepolitix.com Says:

    Which years were you in Rochefort, France?

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Chris:
    I'm holding out for the direct mind-puter link. Brain-fi.

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    PJ:
    Hey, you know what? My son did that with his handwriting which is better than mine. Same company, I assume.

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    KCore:
    1961 through 1963. I got news of the JFK assassination from mes copains at school. "Michel, ton president est mort."

  7. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    If you want to come at it from the cynical angle, you can tell the boy that handwritten thank-you notes tend to impress grandparents and are likely to lead to even better birthday presents. Plus, he might want to send a paper birthday card someday.

    I hadn't thought about it until today, but now I'm going to look up that handwriting font company.

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