Monday, August 13, 2012

Penmanship is bullshit.

Before I start, I know neither Ed Vanetten or Barefoot Danger (Dancer? Shit, we'll get to this in a bit.). I mean you no harm and hope you can settle this greater than/less than debate without the use of rusty butcher knives or tossing chili powder into each others eyes.

Business car trips usually spur interesting discussions.

I've discussed everything from dildos to taxes to gun laws to strip club buffets to the art of dinning and ditching from said strip club buffets to you name it.

Debates are also naturally going to happen when you put three or four people in a car who don't spend their days mucking out port-o-potties or stocking a bread aisle. (My apologies to the Wonder Bread folks, your knuckle dragging stockers are ironically not like your bread.)  Last week was no different. During a long car ride back from Atlanta, a debate raged on about how fuct, yes fuct, the American school system truly is today.

One of the most interesting areas that popped up in this debate centered around penmanship.

As a child, and still to this day, I have abysmal penmanship.

When I was in elementary school my teachers were constantly on me about the sloppiness of my writing. Notes were sent home, bottoms were spanked and every day after school while my friends would be play in their yards, I would be strapped to my desk or the kitchen table practicing penmanship.

Did five years of this make a difference to my handwriting? No.

Whether it was cursive or print, it never, ever, ever improved.

The only real thing that improved was my love of snacks and hatred for exercise—thanks Mom.

Anyway, while I would practice, my mother would sit over my shoulder. Every once in a while she would grab the pencil and my hand and try to "help" me form letters and words that didn't look like an abortion on my Big Chief Paper Tablet. Sure there would be a few words that would look okay—but more or less, everything I churned out was on the level of hoodrat graffiti.

It's not that I was a dumb kid or didn't get the basic shapes of letters and numbers, I just hated the idea of having to make every letter perfect.

This frustrated my mother to no end. She had no idea why she had been stricken with a script-sick dolt. She yelled, begged, pleaded with me and cried to the heaven's above, "Why dear Lord? Why have you cursed me with this child who as far as I can tell has the penmanship of a drunk bear? I'd rather have a morbidly obese child with a hair-lip and webbed feet than this sin to letters and words."

Then, my mother, a nurse, had the thought that enters all parent's minds when their child's handwriting is borderline special ed-equse. "He's going to be a doctor. Doctors have shitty handwriting, this is a sign! Sure he'll never be able to write a paragraph that is decipherable but he'll fix aortic valves, cure cancer and never have to put enemas up old women's cakeholes." 

My mother has spent decades describing to me the intimate details of having to fish fecal material out of old women's rectums. Maybe my handwriting was my family's escape from this level of near serfdom. 

Somehow my imperfect "q"s were going to elevate our family from the type of people who removed the final remains of last week's summer squash dinner out of Old Lady Henson, to the type of people who directed others to remove the final remains of last week's summer squash dinner out of Old Lady Henson.  

But this never happened.

My handwriting is still often described as "piss" by friends and family members.  My mother finally realized I was never going to be a doctor when I was around 14. One day my dad needed something from her while she was working in the emergency room in our county hospital. 

I walked into the hospital and I saw blood. I then proceeded to throw up. Which caused me to pass out in my own throw up. Unfortunately, my mom had to clean it up. 

Besides the sight of blood, touching anything described as "festering" really gives me and inward boner. Not cool. 

So I decided to go to journalism school. Now I am a Creative Director and despite my horrid penmanship, she thinks I turned out "okay". That said, penmanship is an outdated methodology and it's not sad for me to say texting, typing and emails have replaced it. 

Nothing requires you to use penmanship anymore:

  • Nobody turns in a book report today that is handwritten.
  • Nobody writes love notes—it's love texts, love emails or just flat out sexting.
  • Nobody posts cursive proclamations to church doors anymore. 

Teaching penmanship in school is as useful as teaching kids how to run a loom, how to breed 
passenger pigeons or how to drive a steam powered thresher. 

I would rather the time American schools spend on penmanship be used, well, for ANY fucking thing that makes our kids slightly smarter! Shit, spend penmanship time on math. We could fucking use a generation that understands math. Because my generation is horrible at math, all of us—but fucking shit do our printed "G"s look amazing. 

Isn't that right Barefoot Danger? Dancer? Shit! I can't tell. 

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