Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Generation of nincompoops?

Yes, I know how to correctly spell nincompoop. That brilliance aside, let's discuss this article. (Okay, it helped that I just read it in the name of the article, but I would like to think that I would have known how to spell it, even if I had not just read it. We'll never know.)

Click me to read the article.

It raises some interesting points. I assume I am part of the group raising the rising generation, because I did know how to tie my shoes before I went to school (I think I did at least . . . Mom?), I know what to do with an ice tray, and I am very adept at addressing an envelope.

However it was sad to think about how much "common" knowledge gets lost every generation. Or is it sad? Surely the rising generation has new skills that the old generation does not have. Computers are the first thing that comes to my mind. And is it really vital to know how to ride a horse anymore? Fun? Yes. Vital? No.

One part of her article that really surprised me was where she seemingly nonchalantly included cursive as an unnecessary skill for the future generation. I love cursive. I became a little feisty when I read that. However, as I thought about it longer, I had to wonder.

I keep a real journal that I write in almost every day. I have volumes of them. I began seriously at age 12, but I have a few that my parents helped me write or teachers forced me to write when I was even younger. The majority of these journals are written entirely in cursive. Cursive is just faster than print.

When I was in school, cursive was mandatory course of study. When my mother was in school, she took a class in short hand. Consequently, at least one of her old notebooks is written in shorthand. She mentioned a year or so ago (upon finding that notebook) that she wished she remembered how to read shorthand better, so she could read what she wrote.

Now obviously, shorthand is much further away from every day print than cursive is, but it has not always been so. I had the privilege of working in the special collections section of my university's main library. While there, I spent over a year reading journals from around the 1850s to the 1930s. These were mostly written in cursive, but a different cursive than we have today. Certain symbols were written differently, certain letters were written differently, and some letter combinations had a sign all of their own. So sometimes, it was difficult to decipher. Those changes happened over decades though. Will my own journals be difficult to decipher in just two decades?

And even today, I worry when I write a cursive Q that some people will think I wrote a 2.

I was reading a book the other day that is based just over a hundred years ago, and those who could not write simply put an X for their signatures. I have friends today whose signatures are either almost exactly like their print or have some symbols involved. I assumed they either didn't like cursive or thought the symbols were artistic or fun. After reading that article, I simply wonder if they do not know cursive.

Is cursive dying? I already knew the English language was dying (thanks to this article my friend shared with me), but I saw that coming. However, I did not notice the dying last gasps of breath of cursive, and I am mourning it a bit.

So, do you know how to write in cursive? Do you enjoy writing in cursive? Or are you shouting Hallelujah and Good Riddance at the possibility that cursive may be a lost art with this rising generation?

Something in the article also made me think of my father. It mentioned that there are college aged students who have never taken a bus alone. Now, part of me wonders if they just grew up in the country where buses were not necessary or always had a car. However, I do believe that my generation—and I'm sure the next—are much less frequently alone in public transportation than previous generations.

When my father was in the eighth and tenth grades, he went to a boarding school in the East. His parents also lived in the East, in a nearby state. During his two years at boarding school, my father would come home to visit his parents. To do this, part of his trip involved arriving in New York City at one train depot and then leaving New York City on a different train depot. He navigated the trip there, the ride from one depot to the other, and then the trip to his parents' house all on his own. I don't know how many eighth graders are allowed to do that these days. Is our world that much less safe or are parents just that much less willing to allow their children to strike out on their own or are children that less capable of handling situations on their own (without smart phones or even regular cell phones)?

When telling me this story, he related having recently watched a Shirley Temple movie where it showed her hitchhiking in the middle of the night. He mused that when the movie came out, moviegoers probably chuckled at her cuteness and tenacity whereas if that scene had occurred in movie today it might be to illustrate neglectful—or even abusive—parenting.

Interesting how the world changes.

And it always does. We can't stop it, and should we? I like bathrooms and running water as much as the next person. I enjoyed being able to wear shorts and T-shirts, and I loved playing sports. So, while some change makes me sad, because I miss something that is on its way out, I do enjoy many of the new changes (like this blog!).

Did anything from the article make you happy or sad to see it go?


  1. That was an interesting article! I was sad about the ice cube trays--these kids don't know the fun they're missing! I hardly ever use ice, but it's always a good time popping them out, you know?

    As for cursive, I'd heard that it's waning. That's interesting to me. Since I learned cursive, after some of the rigid rules were relaxed, my writing has always been a mix of print and cursive depending on my mood. If your clear cursive will be illegible in a few decades, I had no hope for my messier scrawl, haha.

    And thanks for adding the death of English link. Good times. :)

  2. An interesting article...
    Regarding your comments on cursive, it has been announced that schools here in Muncie will no longer teach cursive starting next year. Students will be taught how to write their name in cursive but that is all.
    After reading this article, I "googled" cursive writing and came across a forum debating the issue. Someone wrote something along the lines "how will students read what is written on the board?". My immediate thought was that teachers probably do not write on the board that much anymore. Teachers from middle school to up to college professors are using digital communication. Even Kyle, when he taught fifth grade last year, used his laptop and a projector. His handwriting is horrible and it was the only way students could read his writing (print AND cursive).
    For those of us who know how to do everything mentioned in the article, it seems ridiculous to not be able to handle such simple tasks. However, if there is a new and more convenient way of doing things, we will probably jump on the bandwagon sooner or later anyway.
    I also think some of those things (five year old in a stroller, four year old in a pull up) are the parents fault. That isn't the kid being lazy, it's the parent (unless there is a medical reason, of course).

  3. I will miss cursive but it was the writing option for speed and really doesn't fill a need for most people anymore.

    I wonder if teaching cursive for just your name; if that will work. You'll know the letters of your own name but not the other letters. Doesn't sound promising.

  4. My mom e-mailed me this response, which I thought was relevant and interesting. It illustrates some of the things she had to learn and even one that her mom had to learn that were both somewhat obsolete by my generation. (She gave me permission to share it here.)

    "I'm glad the article gave you some thoughts. You are very intuitive. It made me think about lots of stuff also. I too wondered about cursive. Someday will people not even be taught how to use a pen/ pencil because they will all have electronic devices and just tap on the letters? One of the Young Women's (called Gleeners, I think) requirements back in my Mom's day was beekeeping. I didn't have to learn that one. I learned how to figure out square roots on paper, longhand or I looked the square root up in a math tables book. Then I was introduced to the slide rule! Wow! That was the fastest way one could EVER calculate a square root! Then the HP45 came out! Wow, nothing could be faster than an HP45! Now kids have programmable calculators that have so much stuff built in that I can't even comment on them. (And I never really learned how to use one of the newfangled things!) I should relearn Shorthand. It would be kind of cool, maybe. Love, Mom"

  5. Well, honestly, I had so many thoughts on this that I'll probably end up writing my own blog post about it... we'll see.

    If I do, I'll definitely link back here so people can appreciate your wisdom.

  6. Haha don't link back here for wisdom appreciation. Only link back if you think they will find the comments interesting, etc. You silly. Feel free to blog about it! Mom is the one who found the article in the first place. And it was an interesting one.

  7. that is so funny! when we were living in our apartment nick's little sisters came over and were like "you make your own ice?" hehe
    did you know that pluto isn't a planet anymore?? it is like a moon from some other solar system or something. nick learned about the "8" planets. what! how are they supposed to remember them? my very elegant mother just served me nine.....


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