Is America facing a new kind of illiteracy? The inability to read handwriting? These kids today. Oy. No penmanship, no ability to read cursive. I tell you, if it’s not in Arial, they can barely understand it. Mind you, I implore Lady Ninja, she of the indecipherable chicken scratch, to continue communicating with me via word processor. If you ever get a chance to read one of her grocery lists, you should. It’s like experimental poetry. “Melh, butler, yoynurt, abbles, leltuce, tomaloes”. Man, that’s deep.
the problem of bad handwriting is not new. But as Kitty Burns Florey argues in “Script and Scribble,” a witty and readable (and fetchingly illustrated and glossed) excursion through the history of handwriting, we have today reached a point of crisis. Typing and texting have caused cursive skills to atrophy, and schools regard standards of style and legibility the same way they regard standards of dress. There may even come a day when longhand writing can no longer be deciphered by ordinary people — you’ll have to bring those old letters in the attic to some fussy museum curator. In 2006 only 15% of students taking the SAT wrote out their essays in cursive script; all the rest — no doubt to the relief of the examiners — used block letters.