I need mindless distraction, and this fills the bill…

It’s been awhile. I know. Something tells me you’ve managed to survive without my pithy eloquence, but I’m going to post tonight anyway because a distraction from my thoughts would do me good. Might do you good too, depending on what your thoughts have been. Mine have been with some who are close to me going through yet again a difficult time, and while I could blog about that, something tells me they’d appreciate it if I didn’t. So I won’t. There, that was easy.

I’m going to tell you a story instead, about me as a kid. I could be a very distracting kid. One of my bigger distractions was in fifth grade. In fifth grade, at least when I was growing up, “writing” was one of the things you got a grade on. What they really meant was “penmanship,” but I guess that wouldn’t fit on the report card or something. When I was growing up, in elementary school, “penmanship” was “writing.” That other thing involving words, for which you received a separate grade, was “reading.”

Though “reading” and “writing” were graded separately, by fifth grade they were most often assigned concurrently, as by fifth grade, you were expected in at least some pitiful, struggling detail to write about what you read.

By fifth grade, my young mind was starting to see connections between things, one of which was, even though I was understanding the material pretty well–I thought so, anyway–my assignments kept coming back with C’s. Not because I wasn’t understanding the material as well as I thought, sometimes I didn’t, but more often than not I did. They were coming back because my “writing”–by which I mean my “penmanship”–was terrible.

Well, then, my young mind said, what would happen if my “writing”–again, by which I mean, my “penmanship”–weren’t so terrible?  Would I get better grades if people could actually read what I wrote?

Why, yes! Yes, perhaps I might! So, my fifth-grade mind told me, there was one–and only one–rational and logical thing to do: stop writing in cursive. 

So I did. From there on out, all my assignments, I wrote in what today they call “manuscript.” We called it “printing.” Every assignment to write I received, I printed.

Lo and behold, my grades started going up. Almost instantly.

My mother was still horrified.

My mother was shocked–shocked!–that my teacher for the reading and writing segments (by fifth grade, my elementary school started moving kids between classes to get them ready for junior high school) was not only allowing me to be such an undisciplined slacker but apparently encouraging it. Enough so at the next parent-teacher conference, they had a discussion about it.

My teacher won out. “He wants to be understood,” she told my mother. “I will not penalize a student for wanting to be understood.”

I never wrote an assignment in cursive again, ever.  No teacher made the slightest deal out of it. Ever. By my sophomore year I was learning to type and from there on out that would be how I would write any such assignment given to me.

That was before personal computers, then tablets, became commonplace. Not very far before, I’m not that old; but the point I’m making is one of the smartest damned things I ever did was to dump cursive and start writing in manuscript. I didn’t realize until I was older exactly how much writing in poor, sloppy cursive held me back as a kid. I could have slowed down and given myself more time to be neat, I guess, but my brain doesn’t work like that. My brain wants that thought down on paper NOW, while it’s intact, before it gets forgotten or squirreled up.

Supposedly a good cursive aids the speed in which your thoughts hit the paper, because you don’t need to lift the pencil from it nearly as much. Maybe for some. Not for me. I notice keyboarding this blog entry that my fingers lift off the keys way more than if I were writing it in either manuscript or cursive, yet the words sure are coming up more quickly.

Why in the world is this on my mind?  Well, I was out on an errand this evening after work and had the car radio on NPR, and this story was the feature.

Normally I don’t react viscerally to NPR stories, but this one had me talking to the radio more than once. Especially fascinating was one Tennessee legislator’s opinion that not teaching cursive in schools was somehow denying students the opportunity to read the nation’s founding documents.  Think about it–in 1776, and 1783, were there typewriters?  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are written in cursive, are they not? How dare we, then, not teach our children the very method used to write those documents so sacred to our heritage?

Seriously–this legislator was genuinely scared that because our kids are no longer learning cursive, they will no longer be able to read documents written in cursive.

I like to think our kids are smarter than that. I also like to think that there are at least a couple of versions floating around that came off a printing press instead of from someone’s poor, tired hand, that Gutenberg’s invention didn’t go entirely to waste not making a copy or two of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. You think? 😉

As is, I’ve said all I really can about it, save for this: It’s nice to know I’m not the only one passionate on the subject, and it’s nice to know that paranoia and conspiracy theories aside, the science on the subject seems to back me up.

Edit: Check out the comments section for a few words on this from Kate Gladstone      (http://handwritingrepair.info/). Enlightening, to say the least. 

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I’m very close to finished editing the old Butterfield Fishing Shows I’ve told you about in earlier entries. Once I get them the way I want them, I’ll send my dad and brothers copies.

If I’m really feeling brave, I might even put them up on my YouTube channel–the one I didn’t even know I had. Turns out if you’ve got a Google sign-in, by default you have a Google+ account, including a YouTube channel to gussy up and program as much as you choose–provided, of course, you don’t violate copyright laws.

There, I might have a problem.

See, the Butterfield Fishing Shows as I produce them, have music in them, in many cases easily recognizable music, and, well, the RIAA doesn’t take too kindly to people using music without paying the people who made the music.

Fortunately there’s also a thing called the Fair Use provision of American copyright law, and for 99% of the music I’m using, I’m well within its bounds.

The trouble is the one or two tunes where I might not be, and YouTube’s nasty habit of muting or dumping videos that use too much copyrighted music.

But if you ever saw one of these shows, you’d not only understand why I’m using the music, you’d probably insist I did. I don’t have to, I guess, but it just adds a certain je nais se quoi that makes the difference between a fun, funny story and just a bunch of dudes fishing.

When did life become so hard, anyway?

Enough rambling. Sleep well, America. Good night.

 

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