Commentary

Saunders: Mandatory cursive? You’ve got to be kidding

bsaunders@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2013 

Don’t be surprised if state legislators start handing out rulers with which teachers can smack satanic spawn – meaning left-handed pupils – to cure them of that vile condition.

Don’t look at me like that. There was indeed a time when left-handedness was viewed as evil and was actively, violently combated. Since it appears that no segment of our lives is too obscure for our current legislature to interfere, can outlawing southpawing be far behind?

My colleague Rob Christensen, in an excellent column Sunday, wrote about how “big-government Republicans” – presumably an oxymoron, that – are now running things over on Jones Street.

The GOP-dominated legislature has introduced or passed bills seeking to name a state religion, lock up a woman if she shows a boob, make Bible study an elective course and elevate the possum to the state marsupial.

We’re not even talking – yet – about the second coming of Reconstruction it is unleashing.

There’s even what some people – OK, just I – call the Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” bill, which would force people desiring a divorce to wait two years before finalizing their “I Don’ts.”

The coup de grip is the latest bill, one which would require elementary schools to teach cursive writing. Not suggest, not implore, but require that teachers teach cursive writing.

Are mandatory letters next?

I agree that an ability to write in cursive is a valuable arrow for any child to have in his or her quiver, although some people feel just as strongly that it is an antiquated tool with few practicable modern-day uses. Considering that few people write letters or send cards these days, they may be right.

Uh-oh. Can you sense another bill coming? How long before some legislator who hasn’t heard from his or her kid in awhile introduces a bill requiring children to write to their parents – in cursive – at least twice a month?

Don King, a Raleigh calligrapher who teaches people how to make beautiful letters, said, “We in the calligraphy community are absolutely thrilled that the legislature” is requiring that cursive be taught.

King, who said he got into calligraphy late – “I was a professional soldier in my first career” – said the connection between calligraphy and cursive is “very strong.”

“I tell my students that calligraphy is a formal application of letters in which beauty is the goal,” he said. “Calligraphy serves the eye. Handwriting serves the hand and requires just enough effort to make it readable.”

Intentionally indecipherable

Speaking of making it readable: There is an advantage to making it unreadable. In a college literature class, whenever I hadn’t read the prescribed novel on which a report was due, my handwriting would become intentionally indecipherable. I’m talking real chicken scratch. For a while, the teacher figured that if she couldn’t read it, I must have known what I was talking about.

That deceit succeeded for only a novel or two and drew a strong rebuke from her that stings even now, decades later.

That old maxim “That government is best which governs least”?

Not here.

Since the legislature is in hyper-bill-passing mode, wouldn’t it be appropriate if they introduced a bill naming a new state bird? How about the pigeon, since that is what any voters who thought they were voting for smaller, less-intrusive government must feel like.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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