I was helping my hip-hop MMA-loving grandson with his homework last week. Something about Zeus and the beginnings of Greek mythology. Ancient history (in English & Latin) was one of my favourite topics in school but, truth be told, this updated version was almost unrecognizable.
As he began to fill in the blanks, I asked, “How come you’re printing, in pencil?”
“Because, Grandma, they didn’t teach us to write cursive.”
In the back of my mind, I remembered a discussion we had about this last year, but I didn’t believe it. Unfortunately, it’s true. He’s going into grade nine at the beginning of August, in a school that specializes in elite athletics, academics and nutrition. But he can’t write a flowing hand. Instead, the cramped, hastily scrawled letters lean against one another like fallen bricks.
In high school, Father Beauchamp (who also doubled as our Majestic Colour Guard instructor for a while), rapped our knuckles during penmanship if we didn’t get our swooping letters correctly.
Now, we have a generation who will have to print their ‘signatures, just as we did in grades one and two, before we learned to use a pen to shape letters into music on the page. Sad. Our digital babies are only partly literate, for without cursive, a huge chunk of skill is missing.
My mission over the summer (in between paying him to do heavy lifting and painting around the yard) is to get him to practice writing a fine hand. It will be a struggle, because as willing as he is, his writing muscles are undeveloped.
As we all struggle with the impending end of another school year and wonder what can be done to bring the joy and accomplishment back to today’s classrooms, it’s comforting to know that we parents, grandparents and students aren’t alone. This short video clip gives nourishing food for thought.
Taylor Mali is a poet, teacher, and the curator of the Page Meets Stage series that takes place at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.
The release of this video is a result of Taylor Mali’s Quest for a Thousand Teachers, a goal he set in 2000 to inspire 1,000 people to become teachers through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance.” After more than 12 years, Taylor reached this goal and is soon to release his book, “What Teachers Make,” described as “an impassioned defense of teachers and why our society needs them now more than ever.” #whatteachersmake. A product of Semicolon Productions.