Friday, August 08, 2014

Handwriting Rebels

A couple years back Kent & I were doing a tour of Northeastern California. We stopped in at a museum that featured gold mining equipment and Indian baskets and so on. I bought some postcards, as I am wont to do, and chatted a little with the lady behind the front counter. When I said we were from Berkeley, she said she was born in Berkeley!

Somehow we got onto the topic of education - maybe it was the ignorance of kids today, or some such evergreen - and she said she couldn’t believe schools no longer required handwriting, that is, cursive. How could you consider yourself educated if you didn’t know how to do that?

Probably nobody (older) has ever but agreed with this sentiment (not long ago my younger sister posted similarly on Facebook), so I must have surprised the museum lady when I rolled my eyes and said, “I always hated cursive. As soon as it was no longer required I stopped using it. The only time I write with cursive these days is when I apply a signature.”

Sadly, we suddenly lost our common ground!

In his book about the FBI and the Free Speech Movement Subversives, Seth Rosenfeld spends several pages on a biographical sketch of former University of California president Clark Kerr. Kerr remembered his grade school days and one of those confident predictions made by his teacher at the old one-room school:

[T]hough she insisted he learn the prevailing Palmer Method of cursive writing - unless he mastered it, she warned, he would “never amount to anything” - he clung to his block letters.

I doubt Rosenfeld interviewed Miss Elba himself so I’m guessing Mr Kerr provides the quote from memory. It stuck in his memory! He did amount to something, the little rebel.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

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