Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Letter-perfect handwriting lasts lifetimes

It doesn't take an exhaustive search to find an Internet list that pokes fun at millennials and touts the skills once valued by baby boomers like me.

BuzzFeed recently posted just such a list: 13 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don't (buzzfeed.com/justinabarca/skills-your-grandparents-had-that-you-dont).

I'm not a grandparent, but many of the 13 resonated: memorizing more than two phone numbers, the most basic of auto maintenance (such as changing a tire), socializing like a human, and partner dancing without being gross.

The list appeals because the rapid technological advances can't help but create nostalgia. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I enjoy mapping out a travel plan without a GPS. I just don't think its necessary.

On the other hand, we may be guilty of exaggerating "the good old days" just to create some false sense of superiority to millennials. We sound silly bragging about knowing how to use a phone book.

And if you were born in the 1960s, like me, there's a chance you didn't grow up living off the land and knowing how to plant and nurture crops. Sadly, the only thing I can sew is a button. I bet there are some millennials out there who are proficient at both.

However, there's one talent — for lack of a better term — that causes real concern about the next generation: writing legibly.

As the BuzzFeed list correctly states, "Looking at old birthday cards from your grandparents makes them seem like professional calligraphers."

It's true. When people look at my handwriting, they say, "You write like a girl" and I simply beam. It reflects my Catholic grade school education, where teachers recorded handwriting as a separate grade in the formative years.

School districts simply don't stress handwriting like Sister Sylvia did back in the day. It's a fading skill as the focus turns to FCAT preparation and computer skills. My kids' handwriting indicates it's being de-emphasized.

That saddens me.

Some may argue that laptops and iPads make it unnecessary for students to write well, except for their signature. Even today, however, not everyone can afford a laptop, but every student needs to know how to take notes.

When it comes to handwriting, go beyond the practical. One of the earliest forms of communication should be passed from generation to generation not as a necessity, but as a gift.

My great-grandmother grew up near a plantation in Tennessee. Her mother worked for the white family who ran it and often took my great-grandmother to work with her. The white family taught my great-grandmother to read and write.

Years later, in the early 1900s, she stood out as one of the few blacks in her rural county who could read and write. People would come by and ask her to read a letter they had been sent. She often wrote responses and they were so grateful they returned the next morning with a basket of eggs or a jar of preserves for the "Letter Lady."

Years later, my grandmother would work as a policy writer for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company because of her "very nice handwriting." I'm not surprised she went on to champion literacy campaigns.

A skill once so valued shouldn't evaporate. We can be proficient on computers while writing well — if for no other reason — to honor our ancestors.

That's all I'm saying.

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