Tuesday, January 25, 2011

becoming the next generation

I became aware of it last week. A local newscast announced that several school systems were eliminating teaching cursive writing from their curriculum. Imagine a phonograph needle scratching across a record album with that attention-grabbing screech that I don't know how to reproduce here alphabetically.

Say what? Not teach cursive writing? My mind flashed forward to a time when children were not taught to write, and then without writing reading became inaccessible, and then communication in general returned to guttural grunts and grins.

Take a breath. The end is not near. No matter that not being able to write cursively might well lead to not being able read script altogether. Scholarship related to ancient texts, letters, manuscripts, and so on. What was to become of them? As you can see, I imagine all manner of ill for our society.

Then our local university announced that all incoming freshmen in the next school year, along with upper class nursing students (?), would receive iPads in order to reduce the expense of textbooks. Eeeek!! Picture me running, screaming, from the room.

And then it hit me. I was turning into the generation of "old people" that can't deal with the progress of society and its new norms. Barely in my fifties, and I'm doomed. The technological advances of the last few years has rocketed us into realms that, at the current rate, will leave me in the dust long before retirement.

As it is I'm struggling this morning to manage downloading podcasts to my iPod so that I don't die of boredom on the treadmill at the gym (the CNN channel has no audio, leaving me to choose between ESPN, Fox News, and local programming overrun with commercials). It's true, I  have not taken advantage of podcasts before now.  Synching my iPod Nano? I can't seem to make anything work. Where are my kids when I need them?

So slowly, with fear and trembling, I am crawling into the technology of the 21st century. It's not a pretty picture. You may need to send out a search party in due time.


Kip said...

Sad but true. They have been slowly fazing that out for years. There just isn't enough time in the day to teach it now that every minute is accounted for...sad. I loved teaching it in 3rd grade.

Carolina Linthead said...

There is so much to say and so little time and space! We had this same conversation with an incredibly bright college student over Christmas break, a young lady who is going to help save the world, if it can be saved. She told us that she can barely sign her name in cursive anymore, let alone write an essay in it. The next generation is not what some assume them to be: dumb. They are smart in ways I was and am not. They can easily master communication, as is clear from the evolution of "text" language, and they are oh, so adaptive to new technologies. But they are not being taught traditional penmanship, among other things, and with that there must be loss, a disconnect with the not so distant past that will have consequences. Trust me on this one, I'm an historian ;-)

It's not just being "old," Anne. I have spent countless hours reading 19th century letters and papers, all hand-written, most of them in cursive. I did not have to take a special "cursive" class to learn to read them. Future generations of scholars likely will have to do so, and that greatly saddens me. This isn't Koine Greek, Middle English or 17th century Spanish, it is American English, written in cursive, and it is beautiful in its complexity. You can see the weight of the pen or pencil right there on the paper, the neatness or sloppiness of the writer, and that gives you something that a transcribed draft of the same document never can. I have always had terrible handwriting, and I don't use a pen very often these days, I confess, but it breaks my heart that we are losing cursive. It is not the end of the world, but it is the end of an era, for sure, and I cannot help but mourn its passing.

The Bug said...

It is scary, but I'll say regarding the textbooks - my nephew is very glad to have a downloadable version that's much cheaper - especially if the professor is only going to reference the book a few times during the semester.

Jayne said...

Well, I vividly remember lugging along my Anatomy and Physiology text and many other nursing texts, which, within a year or so were almost outdated. It does make sense to have them easily accessible on an iPad. Technology has changed so much, hasn't it? It's a mixed blessing. Without it, we would not be connecting here, and yet... we seem to be a society further and further removed from face to face contact. As Dr. M pointed out, stories will be lost, and an understanding of history will be limited to what one can access electronically. It's surely a mixed bag of blessings and curses. And, not cursive curses either!

Jan said...

I have been newly aware of this phenomenon in myself--and I am older than you are! You may be the springboard for my next blog post. Thanks.

KimQuiltz said...

I LOVE, love, LOVE my podcasts! Need any recommendation? I love APMs "The Story" & Being. Love it. I'm also a big This American Life fan. Gotta love Ira. :D

You package is IN the mail! Yay!!

Stratoz said...

I have been spending the day with snow (old fashioned shovel) and with Herbie Hancock. The time with HH started with an LP. But I have to admit that as a teacher, I can live without textbooks that make science generally boring and are forced to be written so TX will like them.

and as for penmanship--- I would have gotten straight A's in elementary school had it not been for getting a grade in cursive writing.

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