“Well, screw that!”

With those three little words, The Anchoress opens the floodgates (or, perhaps, unlocks the pen?) on the subject of cursive penmanship:

I was told that cursive isn’t taught any longer because “with computers and texting it is not required.”

Well, screw that! If something is not absolutely required in life, it’s not worth teaching? Do we not teach poetry? Art? Music? Jumping rope?

I understand that schools spend a lot of time “teaching to the tests” and feel they have no time for some antiquated discipline (although, I must say, Sister Mary Alice Ann, RSM, managed to teach 45 second grade savages to write beautifully in cursive, while also teaching us to read, do sums and learn our catechism, and we did have standardized testing back then); I understand it but don’t accept it. What are schools spending time teaching that leaves no time for penmanship?

Our schools are deeply concerned with “specialness.” They spend a lot of time boosting self esteem and carrying on about how special everyone is. You know what can demonstrate that better than almost anything, and instill a sense of pride-in-accomplishment? Cursive writing! It’s a distinctly individual endeavor, as no one’s handwriting is like anyone else’s. Get them writing their “I am Special” essays in script and let them see exactly how uniquely different (not better or worse but different) every one of us is! It will make a bigger impact than just droning the mantra at them.

Amen.

I’m not exactly the best at penmanship myself—too many years of banging my fingers on the keyboard have made me jittery and impatient with my own hand—but I admire people like my beloved 4th grade teacher, Sister Matthew Christi, a fresh-faced young nun who wore rimless glasses and an easy smile and wrote the most elegant words on a blackboard in chalk.   We still keep in touch; she came to my ordination.  And every Christmas, I look forward to a card with sweeping, almost breathtakingly pure penmanship that bespeaks another time, a time before pixels and megabytes and digital fonts clicked from a menu.

For those who still care about those things, you’ll be happy to know the Palmer Method—the one many of us learned in Catholic school—lives on. Even in the digital age. You can check out this website, which explains its history and execution, and guides you exercises so you can teach yourself the lost art of perfect Palmer penmanship.

Below is a beautiful example.  I should start practicing!

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