Politics & Other Mistakes: Right writing

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I have a friend who thinks cursive writing means sending politicians emails full of swear words.

If that were true, the world would be more fun.

Unfortunately, cursive doesn’t necessarily involve curses. It’s that thing old people do when they hook all their letters together in an effort to make their handwriting indecipherable. Doctors are especially good at it.

I was taught cursive in grade school. It was a dreary exercise in conforming to arbitrary guidelines for no useful purpose. Upon graduation from high school, I promptly abandoned it, along with doing math on a slide rule and reading the last 90 pages of “Ethan Frome.”

With the arrival of digital devices, cursive became all but obsolete. Entire generations have now grown up neither knowing nor caring about it. Republican state Rep. Heidi Sampson of Alfred seems to believe this indifference is contributing to the decline of western civilization (more on that in a moment) and has introduced a bill to require schools to once again teach the art of illegibility.

According to Sampson (as reported in the Portland Press Herald), cursive writing increases hand-eye coordination. According to a recent study, so does playing video games.

“Cursive,” she told a legislative committee on Feb. 14, “stimulates the brain in a way that typing cannot.”

So does sex.

Sampson appears to have based much of her testimony on propaganda put out by a program called New American Cursive, published by Memoria Press, a Kentucky-based outfit that describes itself on its website as producing “classical Christian education materials for home and private schools.” Memoria claims that learning cursive results in “improved neural connections,” increased writing speed, better memory, better spelling, increased self-discipline, greater self-respect and a “higher quality signature.”

Also, whiter teeth, fresher breath and lower blood-alcohol levels during binge drinking.

Is there any actual evidence supporting the claims for this wonder drug? I emailed Sampson and asked her, but got no reply. An online search turned up assorted babble (“Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between left and right hemisphere”), but no links to real studies done by reputable scientists that indicated any of this is true.

On Memoria’s website, I did find a video titled “Saving Western Civilization” that seemed to indicate everything would be better if we just went back to the type of education practiced 150 years ago. That included not only cursive writing, but reading all the great books (a category that includes only works from the Anglo-European tradition) in their original Greek and Latin. Except the Bible. That should only be read in the English of the King James version.

You can draw your own conclusions about what the real agenda is here.

As for Sampson, she’s serving her second term in the Legislature, after a five-year stint on the state Board of Education (she was nominated for that post by former Gov. Paul LePage, who was known to use cursive – and curses – to reply to communications he disliked). Sampson was the first home-schooling parent to hold such a position, setting policies for an education system she doesn’t seem to trust. She’s churned out op-eds attacking Common Core and proficiency-based education, because she doesn’t want the big bad state and federal governments imposing themselves on local schools. Unless they’re imposing themselves in order to require kids to learn cursive.

She seems to be a couple curlicues shy of a curriculum.

Feel free to try emailing me in cursive at [email protected].

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