As I was working this morning – or more correctly, not working as I watched Firefox crash for the second time today – I noticed how much my desk has changed over the years. There are a lot of things missing from our desks any more, replaced one by one, either by our computers or other pieces of technology. I understand nostalgia is overrated, and younger readers in particular tend to scorn such wistful thinking, but there are still days where I miss some of my old friends.
Does anyone use a desk calendar any more? You know the ones I mean, right? They usually have a stack of slips of paper with the month and day printed on them which you flip over or tear off each morning. Frequently they would have an advertisement for whoever supplied it and something clever like a joke of the day or a random inspirational quote. Do any of you still use them? I turn on my computer in the morning and the time, date and even the weather are all waiting for me in the lower right hand corner of my screen.
How about paperweights? Somewhere in the attic I’m pretty sure I’ve got dozens of them which people gave to me over the years. I feel no need to have one now because, well… I don’t use much paper any more. Again, our new old friend the computer has swept it all away.
The other thing missing is the fancy pen and mechanical pencil set. I always liked those. But I was watching a report on CNN which reminded me of the real reason I don’t keep those expensive writing utensils on my desk: I don’t write much any more. I type things, and have been doing so for years.
The report in question prompted others to give little more than a shrug to a nearly lost aspect of writing, which is the cursive script.
While I agree that cursive writing was something I needed to learn when I was growing up and that I did use it to write term papers in the 80s, it has been a while since I used it last, except to write my name or to list things on my grocery list. I admit that even my “thank you” notes tend to be fun Hallmark card videos featuring “Hoops and Yoyo” or a flowing mountain stream and sound effects.
No, I am not a total non-traditionalist; I do occasionally send cards and notes and letters. I do treasure old handwritten letters I have saved through the years, and I think that personalized notes and communications are very valuable. It is just that I don’t think that the skill of handwriting in cursive is nearly as high of a priority as many other things that are needed in the modern world, and I certainly don’t think THIS is the great evidence of the dumbing down of our Nation.
With one exception, I can not recall writing anything of any length in cursive script for decades. The sole exception, which probably still applies to many of us, is my signature. But even that has morphed a lot. When I was a student I actually had a very legible signature, but the decades since then have seen it evolve drastically. At this point, my John Hancock consists of what is almost certainly a “J” followed by a series of squiggles which may or may not be Egyptian hieroglyphs.
When I do write anything by hand any more, I use block print. It’s required when you fill out most forms and legal documents anyway, and my printing is still pretty good. But cursive script? Forget it. I tried it while pondering writing this column and even I can’t read it.
So is it a relic of the past which schools should stop teaching? Does it have any value today?