Cursive

Cursive. That archaic mode of recording one’s thoughts.

I have been spending some small bit of my spare time trying to remember how cursive handwriting works. I had abandoned it shortly after graduating high school. This was due both to my block letters being vastly more legible, and the increasing uselessness of handwriting in everyday life. I do remember, as a younger sibling wanting to learn cursive to be like my older sister and her friends. That squiggly, contiguous form of penmanship that they were learning made them seem so much more like adults who seemed to have this ability to pay for nearly anything by simply swiping a pen across the checkbook. This was of course before the prevalence of debit cards which opened up a whole new series of wondrous mysteries where purchasing options were concerned1. It seemed so fancy and beautiful. I was so fascinated by it that I got scolded once or twice by a teacher for drawing lines between my print letters to connect them.

When I had finally reached the age that it was deemed reasonable to be enlightened by the public education system as to the eldritch secrets of what I was assured to be the defacto way of writing2  I soon discovered the hand cramping agony of each loop and arc. My mind numbed at the similarities of lowercase L and B, the capitals T and F had the same issue, and the letter X was basically a V with a line through it. And what the hell was the going on with Z? My technique was awful and my teachers went to great efforts to point this out. My L’s didn’t have enough loop, and my T’s had too much (which is to say any). The little hooks of the letters O, V, and B left me at a loss as to how to start the next letter3, did I just start them at mid stroke or did I bring the pen down to the bottom of the line and start there, either answer seemed wrong at some point or other. I never remembered to dot my i’s or cross my t’s and when I did it was because I had broken the rules and not waited until I had completed the whole word. When I tried to write more neatly I wasn’t able to finish assignments in time and was marked off for having my papers uncompleted. Continued years of physical and psychological anguish over the subject did not improve matters. The introduction of a typewritten requirement to my reports and essays helped to greatly advance my self-worth.

Why then, am I revisiting this ancient horror?

I wouldn’t trouble myself, believe me I am not a masochist. It seems there is no plan to teach it at my daughter’s school. Now, I really don’t think it is all that important. Quite frankly it seems that most of the people who I’ve spoken to who are upset about the removal of cursive from the curriculum are people who still hold a grudge about having to learn it when they were young4. But anyway, my wife has mentioned in passing that she thinks we should teach her ourselves. Which I feel ultimately means I am going to end up trying to show her how it’s done And if that’s is the case, well I should have at least something resembling proficiency in the task.

I’d like to think that the price of keeping art and music in her school is the loss of cursive I am perfectly fine with that. Sadly that’s not the case. Art and Music will consistently be on the chopping block, because just like cursive it isn’t part of the standardized tests. The schools are beholden to these damn tests in order to maintain funding and resources, and so more funding and time is funneled to teaching towards the tests. That’s a negative feedback loop that is draining all of the actual education out of schools. We aren’t losing cursive to laziness, we’re losing it to bureaucracy.

Anyway, that’s What I’ve been thinking about over the past week. How about you?

Happy Monday5

Prompt


  1. I really do long for those days when I was a child and had no need for the petty adult realities of personal finance 
  2.  Apparently they didn’t discuss the matter with my Mechanical Drawing instructor who just a year later would spend weeks teaching us the importance of perfectly drawn block capitals. 
  3.  If, while in grade school, I had been asked to write the word “bovine” there would have been an… incident. 
  4.  And damn it, if I had to shovel coal when we were kids then this lazy, good for nuthin’ generation should have to shovel coal too, by gum. 
  5. Wow it’s been almost a year since I typed those two words. And I still love me some footnotes. 

Clean Reader, Lazy Mind

Recently I posted a piece of fiction in response to a writing challenge posted over at Terribleminds, a blog hosted by Chuck Wendig. The particular challenge was spurred by an objection to a new app called Clean Reader. The point of this app is to scrub profanity from e-books, thus allowing people to read books they might otherwise find offensive. Had it not been for this challenge I probably never would heard it. Now Mr. Wendig’s, as it happens, has a  problem with the app, as do other authors. I feel their concerns are understandable. I did a small amount of research myself and decided to do something I don’t normally do, in a somewhat serious manner.

Express my opinion.

I am not going to scream about censorship. I am not going to worry you about authorial consent. I am not even going to explain in-depth the obvious point that; if you do not like the language a writer uses, guess what, you don’t like the writing they produce.

I just want to say that, I feel, this app was born of laziness and fosters ignorance. Especially where children are concerned.

The masterminds behinds this idea were parents of a child who apparently was having a frowny-face-day because she read a book at school that had some bad words in it. They wanted their daughter, who was apparently a capable reader to be able to seek out books that were challenging but, not have to read profanity. As a result they got someone to develop their little brain child. Their way of phrasing this can be found on the apps FAQ page.

Did they discuss with their child the fact that swear words are in fact part of human language? Did they explain to their child the appropriate usage of language? Did they sit down a talk about what is and is not appropriate reading material for their child? Did they make an attempt to reaffirm the values they wished their child to believe in and uphold?

Nope, apparently they decided it would be better to invent a friendly robot to shield their beloved lust spawn, and keep it clean and ignorant of the nuances of human interaction. Why? Well probably because it was easier than, I don’t know, maybe being a parent. Also probably because they figured they could make a couple of bucks by helping to limit the access to choice to the youth of other overprotective parents trying to raise good little mindless, whiny, dullards in this immoral society that lets children have access to such dangerous things as words and books and ideas.

Now I am sure their hearts are in the right place. Granted, as I say that I am picturing a small, engraved wooden box, a chalked circle, and several candles that must never, under any circumstances, be extinguished. Their might possibly be several contracts drawn up in blood. I have a vivid imagination though.

In a way I can relate though. I have a daughter, who I love very much. She is a fairly advanced reader for her age and we make an effort to get her to read more complex material. Now, I have seen the library at her school, I have no worries about the content available to her there. At the public library we walk with her and talk about her selections. There will come an age where this is neither welcomed nor necessary, as I do intend to raise her to be a thoughtful and independent young woman. I have to admit I will be a little sad when that day comes, but I don’t fear for her encountering some awful, filthy disgusting language. One, because I don’t believe such a thing exists, and two because she already has heard and knows a few swear words because they are so available in society.

On the first point I’d like to clarify that words, are in no way offensive, it is intent and usage that gives words their weight. Language is not vulgar or crude, that distinction belongs solely to people. What I find more offensive than the speaking of any epitaph is the notion that somehow the decay of moral society has anything to do with the utterance of some, to be honest, quite hazily defined list of words and phrases.

Secondly, when my daughter began to experiment in the use of profanity I took her aside and explained to her that she shouldn’t use certain words, or phrases in public because they might offend some people. I told her this with the full intention of that under my careful tutelage she will one day know exactly when it is both appropriate and necessary to properly offend those people.

Those who know me in my personal life have probably witnessed my frequent and creative uses of various expletives; those who have read the content of my space here know I don’t often go in for gratuitous uses of profanity in my limited experience as a writer. I do use it but, in correct doses. Partially because I don’t feel it warranted to convey my ideas and, partially because, unlike face to face communication, the written word offers me use of commas and other punctuation to help direct readers minds where I would like them to go.

I am a parent, an involved parent, who wants their child to be educated and to read challenging books. Challenging books, as it happens, contain words and ideas that might be uncomfortable, that provoke thoughtful discussion, and will allow her to reach her own (eventually) mature and informed conclusions. Simply eliminating words from view, changing what has been written, or otherwise sanitizing text  is, in my opinion, counterproductive to that goal.

Worse, it is lazy parenting, and it is possible you will wind up raising ignorant, easily pacified adults.

But, that’s just my opinion; and it’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday!

A Sign of Evolution

I’m sure I mentioned this before but, I used to smoke.

Like a freakin’ chimney.

At the top of my game I smoked three packs of non-filtered cigarettes a day. But then I realized that I didn’t really have that kind of free time.

When I started smoking, at the completely appropriate age of fourteen years old, it seemed like one of the most socially acceptable vices ever conceived. It was easy to buy smokes with your allowances, because they were cheap and readily available in vending machines. You never got busted, mostly because no one cared.

Me and my buddie, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

Me and my buddies, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

I’m serious, literally not one adult gave a rodents rear-end when they saw kids smoking. At least not enough to do more than grumble about those damned delinquents with nothing better to do but hang around the malls in their black denim jackets smoking cigarettes.

That’s right you could smoke in the mall.

You could smoke pretty much anywhere. In restaurants nonsmokers would huddle in small, cramped separatist camps, the boundaries of their clean little world clearly demarcated by signs on brass poles, open doorways, and (if you were in a real classy joint) velvet ropes. All of seemed things seemed sufficient to ward off dreaded second-hand smoke.

Things started to get a little serious just before the time I was old enough to buy cigarettes legally. Someone shouted, “Think of the children!” and so they got tough on sales to minors. I got carded once or twice but that was easy to get around. Most of the Einsteins they had jockeying registers couldn’t imagine a seventeen year old being ballsy enough to present there driver’s license in expectation that they weren’t going to be paying enough attention to notice he was a minor. Either that or they really sucked at math.240px-No_smoking_symbol

Also I started noticing a lot more of these odd little signs every where.

Flash forward a couple of years and by the time I was in my mid twenties the tables had turned. These signs were practically everywhere and it was smokers being herded to a few scant tables in the dark recesses of local eateries. Gone were the tall sand filled ashtrays that once lined the halls at local shopping centers. My friends and I would constantly complain how it wasn’t fair. We talked with some indignation about some imagined rights of ours being overlooked, ignored, and just plain violated.

Time passed, I grew older. I became a homeless wastrel, faced the harsher realities of life. At some point you see that there is more to existence than when and where you can smoke. So when, after I spent sometime getting my crap together, the state I reside in decided to outlaw smoking in restaurants I didn’t take it as a personal insult. I did think it was dumb that it became a matter of legislation rather than the property owner’s choice but whatever. So it became that you could only smoke outside. Well, except if your standing outside the airport waiting for your ride.

 

No smokes, no gum. Now your screwed

Their really cracking down on this second-hand chewing thing.

Eventually I quit smoking. Not because anyone was making harder to do, because lets face it they’re not. You can still get all the nicotine you want at your corner drugstore.  I quit because it was bad for me and I was tired of doing it.

The thing that got me thinking about all of this was on my way to work I saw this sign I had never seen wpid-img_20150325_125033.jpgbefore. It caught my eye and made me think.

I started wonder if this was some sort of symbol of us evolving as a society. That we didn’t have to bother telling people that they couldn’t smoke somewhere anymore, because it was just expected that you couldn’t. That finally we have accepted that the health of the many, might outweigh the desires of the few.

It was in that moment I realized how fortunate it is that we, as a society, have finally sorted out where people can and can not stand while smoking.

With any luck and another couple of decades or so worth of work we can finally deal with smaller social justice issues, like poverty or civil rights. That would be nice. Maybe we could get a couple of guys to get some real work done with public education, you know if we can spare them.

Anyway, that’s what I spent some time thinking about in the past week.

Happy Monday.

P.S.: Can someone go get a ladder and help me down off this horse?

Photo of newsies smoking by Lewis Hine and is in the public domain.

No Smoking placard pictured at the right side of this article modified from
No Smoking Sign by Zubi CC BY-SA 3.0