Monday, December 12, 2011

Penmanship Blues

Those of you of a certain age will remember the penmanship exercises that were required of us in school around third and fourth grades.   We clutched our #2 pencils in our little hands, gritted our teeth, checked the samples and painstakingly practiced over and over again on lined paper.  I clearly remember that pensmanship was a particularly big deal -- a right of passage, actually, when our progress was tested and assessed.  Those of us whose penmanship passed muster were awarded with our first pens.  Oh, so grown up!

I also remember the whole thing being a difficult, frustrating time in my scholastic career.  My handwriting was so lousy that I was the next to last student in 4th grade to make that transition from childish pencil to mature pen.  The only kid behind me was the class goof off who was repeating the grade. 

Sad to say, my penmanship is only marginally better now.  It's legible, but only if I really take my time, and by no stretch of the generous imagination is my writing pretty.  This has always bothered me, probably because such an emphasis was placed on good handwriting when I was a kid.  Plus, my mother, grandmother, aunts and female cousins all had excellent penmanship.  Even my older brother writes more neatly and clearly.  Only my father's writing was worse and he got the free pass under the old stereotype of "all doctors have messy handwriting".

Thankfully, I am an excellent typist with great speed and accuracy.  My fingers fly over the keys and words, sentences, even paragraphs, pour out onto the screen.  This is an enormous benefit because, as a writer, ideas sometimes come so quickly that I'd never be able to write fast enough to keep pace.  If I tried, the words would resemble a mish-mash of illegible ink. 

Unfortunately, I can't type out the messages onto my annual holiday cards.  Oh, sure, I can have my name printed professionally on the card, but I like to include a few words of my own.  I've been scrawling messages and addresses and signing my name for hours.  Sometimes I look at the words and wonder if the recipient will have any trouble reading what I wrote.

 Here's a sample:

Not sure why the picture's loading sideways, but at least you can see the messy, cramped, less than textbook cursed cursive.  Told you it was bad!

I know it isn't something I can really change at this late date, particularly when there are so many other, more important things to accomplish.  Instead I try to remember to take my time and not rush writing.  This helps me reduce the errors and sloppy look of the letters. 

Do kids in school today even spend time on penmanship, or do they just go on by their own after someone introduces them to cursive over printing?  Is it a forgotten art or now-overlooked skill? 

What do you think?  Do you have good handwriting or bad?  Does it matter?


Jan Storz said...

Penmanship? I learned to write at Catholic elementary school. Not only can I write clearly but I picked up OCD somewhere around that time. Mary, your writing is fine. Keep and mind that I'm comparing it to the writing of the doctors and nurses where I work. Now that's scary! ~Jan

Penelope Marzec said...

Your handwriting isn't bad. You should see my hubby's handwriting--it's illegible. I remember doing handwriting exercises in fifth grade. The practice did help me. By sixth grade the teacher allowed me to write assignments on the blackboard.

Heather Graham said...

I think that the computer age is great--but that we're forgetting a lot that is so important. If no one can write cursive, who is going to read it in sixty years when looking at historical documents.
Same as history. Wow. We're taking a lot of chances with what we're not teaching.

Paula said...

Actually I loved my penmanship classes. If I'm not mistaken we were taught the Palmer method, believe my mother was as well. While my grandmother had that lovely spidery Victorian hand.

I think the current educational system are doing the children a disservice in dropping cursive writing. Show me a kid now, who by the time they reach kindergarten or first grade who doesn't know their way around a computer. So drop the typing classes, teach junior how to spell and write.

Anonymous said...

Your handwriting is a vision of loveliness compared to mine. I blame it on the fact that I'm left-handed. You know, because I need an excuse, not because that's a good reason.

Kids are still taught to write, there just isn't that much emphasis on it anymore. My son, who has terrible handwriting, has teachers who will give papers back to him if they can't read what he wrote.

Anonymous said...

Cursive writting no longer taught in schools

KateGladstone said...

"I know it isn't something I can really change at this late date, ... "

Oh? I've seen (and helped) quite a few folks over 65 "repair" their penmanship.

Kate Gladstone — Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

Anonymous said...

I read doctors' handwriting, yours is wonderful. Seriously, since I started typing more, my writing is awful. I don't think kids do penmanship anymore. They need to.

Hope said...

I had the best penmanship in my first grade class. Sadly, it never improved after that. :p