Some say it's a problem of the hi-tech age. Computers get much of the blame for youngsters who would rather push a button than grip a pencil.
Others contend that it's a matter of communication, whether it's done by block letters (printing), cursive-writing or produced by mechanical means on a typewriter or a laptop.
All I know is that the good Benedictine Sisters stood over us as we practiced the ovals and push-pulls of the Palmer Method before they let us go on to letters and words. The upshot was penmanship which you could read and understand.
Teachers today say that there isn't enough time to teach legible writing. The curriculum is too full of other stuff, they argue. But when so much mail goes into the dead-letter office – or when pharmacists have to call up for clarification of hospital medication orders – something is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Maybe we should go back to Austin N. Palmer's method of teaching, although his company was finally closed in Cedar Rapids, IA, in 1988. At least we would know that our perscriptions are okay.
Of course, doctors take the most heat for bad writing. (Apparently they don't teach hand-writing in medical school.) After I wrote a column for the Sioux City Journal, one of my readers sent me the following story:
"A printer went to his doctor for a checkup. The physician wrote out a prescription for him, which the printer put in his wallet and neglected to have it filled. Every morning for two years he showed it to the conductor as a railroad pass. Twice it got him into Radio City Music Hall, once into a baseball park and once into a symphony concert. One day he mislaid it at home and his daughter picked it up, played it on a harp and won a scholarship to a music conservatory."
That's a bit far-fetched, but you get the point. (I should apologize here to the doctors whose hand-writing I can read because I may need help from them.)
Actually, some engineers, lawyers, and the man-on-the-street are just as bad – or worse. Nobody gets off free on this one. We worry about no child left behind, but I wonder about these tech-age kids who can't (or won't) learn to write legibly.
And how about the graphologists who make their living by analyzing hand-writing on job applications, will validations, resum�s and other important papers? They can't figure out if you're shy, despondent or a likely criminal from the block of letters of printing.
Critics say graphology has as much scientific validity as reading tea leaves or consulting on a Quija board. Practitioners will have to look for some other kind of work if cursive-writing is on the way out.
Frankly, I'm just glad the good Sisters made me do ovals and push-pulls when I was growing up. It's just one more thing which has been eliminated in the name of progress.
© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz