When I was a kid, I had a disagreement with my fifth grade teacher. She insisted that the only path for minimally functional—to say nothing of successful—adult humans lay through carefully constructed penmanship. Arguing in the negative, I claimed that in a future of mechanized wonder, where everyone is on America Online* and the streets are paved with Windows 95 updates, handwriting will go the way of phrenology and humorism before too long.
You might shy away from calling this little anecdote a disagreement, and opt more to describe it as an example of an 11 year old child petulantly refusing to make proper loops on my Js. You would be right in trying to re-define the incident, except for one small problem.
I turned out to be right.
Common Core curricula eliminates cursive penmanship** from the normal diet for children. Some argue it’s an arcane thing, and formative education could be better used to teach computer literacy and other skills that might actually exist in a job market in the future. Those brave souls who still think a capital Q is interchangeable with the number 2 argue that in the act of handwriting something, the brain is more fully engaged than it might be in the mindless clattering of a computer keyboard.
Oddly enough, I (mostly) agree with the people trying to keep the dream alive. Writing things by hand has plenty of value. I write the majorities of my rough drafts*** by hand, and it helps promote the free flow of ideas that I spend the next year chastising myself for ever committing to paper in the first place. It’s an essential part of my writing process, and just one of the many parts of that process that cause people to look at me like I need to up my therapy sessions to once a week.
I can see the value in promoting writing things by hand, but penmanship might be a bridge too far. I think handwriting should be between a person and their sheet of paper. And, with data mining quickly reaching Skynet-levels of intelligence, it might soon be the only thing that stays between you and an inanimate object. So there’s another point in favor of writing by hand, folks.
I think we need to start treating handwriting in the same way that human civilization has treated karaoke since it screeched its way to life in post-war Japan. It doesn’t matter how well you do it, it only matters that you do, in fact, do it****.
To that end, some friends of mine at Nevermore Edits have started giving font names to our respective chicken scratches. My own particular style:
…has become known as “Militant Manifesto.” It’s encouraging. I won’t reveal the other font names that we came up with for ourselves, but I will say that we encountered someone at a book event this weekend who’s physician-like scrawl became “2 cc’s of Lidocaine.”
What font name would your handwriting have? Let me know in the comments. In the mean time, try picking up a pen and don’t be so worried if anyone can read it.
*I allowed for the possibility that Compuserve would make a comeback when the Y2K bug eradicated everything we thought we knew about human society, but I digress.
**I’m sure we could go back and forth on that issue, dear reader. Maybe we will, one day. But for now though, focus.
***Except for this blog, which kind of goes against the point. Not entirely sure why I’m even bringing that up.
****Man alive, it is hard to write a sentence with that many “do”’s in it, without veering into the scatological.