Writ­ing on the wall for cur­sive

The Covington News - - Opinion - Tharon Gid­dens Tharon Gid­dens is feel­ing his age to­day. Reach him at ( 678) 7505011 or at tgid­dens@cov­news.com.

I have hand­writ­ing that can char­i­ta­bly be de­scribed as “ doc­tor­like.”

My small, cramped letters slouch se­verely to the left. Some are only hints and sug­ges­tions of what’s there. M y sig­na­ture, for ex­am­ple, has re­duced it­self over the years to a dis­cernible “ Th,” fol­lowed by some mys­tic runes, and there’s def­i­nitely a capi­tol “ G” in the last name, but then there’s a val­ley of in­de­ter­mi­nate mean­ing giv­ing way to two peaks that look like lines chart­ing a dou­ble-dip re­ces­sion.

My script bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the el­e­gant, flow­ing forms of cur­sive letters in D’Nealian that once were posted on plac­ards over the black­boards in thou­sands of ele­men­tary school class­rooms across Ge­or­gia. D’Nealian letters are easy to read and easy to learn.

For most folks, any­way.

Miss Terry at East­side Ele­men­tary in my home­town of Thomasville was well in­ten­tioned in in­struct­ing me how to make those beau­ti­ful letters, and I wanted to please, but I could never quite pull it off.

A D’Nealian cur­sive “ f” flows el­e­gantly up­ward, loops around and down, then bobs back up and ends with an imp­ish stub. My “ f” looks like a drunken let­ter “ t” hold­ing a foot in a stretch be­fore a run.

I blame it on be­ing a lefty. It’s hard when you’re left-handed to learn to do some­thing that re­quires man­ual dex­ter­ity such as writ­ing or ty­ing a shoe when it’s demon­strated by a right-handed per­son. It’s ex­actly op­po­site.

And there I was at the mercy of Miss Terry, who was mak­ing those grace­ful, flow­ing arcs on the black­board with a stick of chalk in her right hand, and ex­pect­ing us to em­u­late.

It was not meant to be. That year started my ele­men­tary school norm of gen­tle­man C’s in hand­writ­ing, which kept me off many an honor roll.

The won­ders of the type­writer ( a mas­sive man­ual Royal of­fice model saw me through high school and col­lege) and then a PC key­board helped me over­come my hand­writ­ing short- com­ings, and greatly en­hanced my abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers. I have a pro­found grat­i­tude for all my teach­ers and pro­fes­sors who were will­ing to suf­fer through my hand­writ­ing mess to find mean­ing in my es­says on in-class tests.

Like Dick and Jane read­ers, learn­ing to write in cur­sive is a relic of the mid­dle of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury.

My chil­dren are in their 20s, and while they learned how to write in cur­sive, they pre­ferred block letters when com­plet­ing tests or es­says that they couldn’t work on with a key­board. For them, it was just as fast, and cer­tainly eas­ier to read.

Soon, our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren may no longer have the plea­sures of learn­ing cur­sive at all. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle ear­lier in the week from the Athens Ban­ner-Her­ald, new cur­ricu­lum stan­dards in Ge­or­gia don’t in­clude classes on cur­sive. It’s al­ready been de-em­pha­sized, and teach­ers told the paper that they had to write in block letters on the white­board be­cause their charges couldn’t read cur­sive.

I can see why that’s hap­pen­ing.

For me, cur­sive is now some­thing re­served for note-tak­ing and for mak­ing out checks. It’s a skill rarely used, and my hand­writ­ing has no­tice­ably de­te­ri­o­rated through dis­use and care­less­ness. Some­times I can’t even make out my notes.

For­tu­nately, I can type most notes while talk­ing on the phone with some­one, I pay most of my bills on­line and use a debit card in stores, so there’s lit­tle need to prac­tice my hand­writ­ing.

I’m glad it’s a skill that I acquired, though it’s slip­ping its way to the back of work­ing knowl­edge. Soon, it will keep com­pany with such skills as know­ing how to roll-start a car with a stick shift and a dead bat­tery, how to tape pen­nies atop a sty­lus so a record won’t skip, and how to fill-in the notches on an eight-track tape so you can record over it.

There’s lit­tle use for such ex­per­tise these days, but if you can’t start your four-on-the­floor Ford Torino, or if you ever need help rip­ping mu­sic from a 33 1/ 3 to an eight track, you know who to call.

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