When I was a little guy, I thought of growing up, what it meant to be an adult. It was not as deep as it sounds. I probably imagined super hero would be one of my career choices. On the list of things that would come with adulthood was driving (were I denied the power of flight), a bigger bed (mine was just fine, but Mom and Dad had a big bed, so I thought it was a perk), and a house (though I couldn’t see why I would ever leave my Mom and Dad, and my brothers and sisters).
In order to earn those trappings of adulthood, I thought there was something that I needed to be able to do as soon as I could, and that was writing right. I didn’t think they would let you be an adult until you could write like my father - with a fountain pen and in cursive. I was sure in due course I would be bequeathed a fountain pen, but I knew the cursive part would be up to me. Oddly, I never believed cursive would be something I was taught. I am unsure why, maybe I conceived it to be an organic process, that once block print was mastered, Darwin would do his part and I would either naturally begin writing in script or I would go the way of the dinosaurs. Now dinosaurs are undeniably cool, but their extinction was not to be emulated. So I set about practicing in earnest to help evolution along. I used paper and crayon to write notes, passages of meaning and weight. Each line the same, a string of connected loops, a spiral across the page. I could not read what I wrote, but knew whatever I put down on paper in this fashion could be read and understood by those more highly developed than I.
Well, I’m settling into my mid-fifties and I finally have a fountain pen that I used to draft this blog in script in my journal. Darwin has smiled upon me – yet I am a dinosaur. A very few years ago, I saw a news item of a teen who had taken the stand in a trial. She was asked to read a note that had been entered into evidence. She looked at the note and said she could not read cursive. Just last month, I was with my grandson. He was helping me with a project and I wrote some instructions for him. He looked at the sheet of paper, and asked me if I could print it out because he was not that good at reading cursive. Schools aren’t pushing cursive any more.
As with other social ills, I blame the computer, the tablet, the cell phone. We have circled back to a time when learning typing in high school was a necessary skill if you had any hopes of entering the business world. Typing is being taught again (now at a younger age), only it is called “keyboarding.” Now everything is written and read in 12 point Times New Roman block print or something equivalent. The handwriting in my journals will become the new hieroglyphs sooner rather than later. People will open them and tilt their head squinting and see not collected letters forming words and sentences and paragraphs, but a string of connected loops, a spiral across the page.