Roy Exum: Our Handwriting Wish

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I can remember a time in my life when I could recognize a person’s handwriting. It was back when we used to send and receive letters and postcards and love notes with our friends. But the biggest reason I am wildly in favor of a bill now in the Tennessee Legislature that will hopefully make it a law that all children must learn to write and read in cursive by the third grade is because – right now – I can hardly sign my name.

Don’t worry; in the next few weeks I hope to be outfitted with a new, and marvelous, brace on my arm that will finally position my right hand where it can hold a pen or pencil. I have been wearing a rigid brace for months, one that positions my “writing hand” with the palm up to help me carry things since I have no elbow joint.

My new brace will purposely have my thumb up instead so I can not only shake hands properly but – at long last – write a quick letter or take notes because just watching me endorse a check makes the bank clerks cringe. You have no idea how terrible it is if you can’t write and, because I have such a perspective, I can say that good handwriting is essential to a full and happy life. And just like riding a bicycle, everybody must learn how to do it.

We live in a word of gadgets, from computers to tablets, and while today’s young can text on an iPhone faster than I can talk, the ability to write in a clear and concise hand should be a prerequisite to an elementary school education. We should have spelling exercises, primary writing classes and tests where the answers must be hand-written as well.

State Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) authored House Bill 1697 after she was told many of today’s children can’t write or read the Bill of Rights in its original form. But Tennessee will soon be like California, Georgia and Massachusetts in demanding our children should be adequately prepared for life that includes some form on handwriting virtually every day.

Before my bout with infections that caused me to reject artificial joints, I didn’t have “a pretty hand” when it came to writing, more of a print-like style, but I loved to drop people notes. Since then I have envied people who write beautifully and it isn’t lost on any of us it is becoming an extinct art. Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) is a school teacher and said, “Not only do kids not know how to write cursive, they don’t know how to write, period. The style is really rather tragic, to see some of the materials we have to read.”

The bill, which was delayed on Tuesday for one week, is certain to pass. Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) is the youngest legislator at age 29 and he expects a large bipartisan vote to approve the bill. “You need to be able to write in the event your computer, your phone or your iPad batteries fail.”

I noticed last summer that some schools were discontinuing algebra II for the simple reason there was little use for it in “the real world.” Good handwriting has just the opposite effect, whether you are reminding your child about baseball practice or leaving a note that you’ll be home in time for dinner. It is a vital educational tool, not to mention its primary purpose – communication.

* * *

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” -- Anaïs Nin

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” -- Mark Twain

“A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” – Christian Dior

“I’m ambidextrous. I can write just as poorly with either hand.” – Jarod Kintz.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen your handwriting before. It’s an oddly personal thing, isn’t it?” -- Ann Aguirre.

“A bad handwriting is as annoying to a reader … as an irritating voice is to a listener.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana.

“Man is a strange animal. He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.” – Adlai Stevenson.

“You may not be able to read a doctor’s handwriting and prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typed.” – Earl Wilson.

“Handwriting is an imprint of the self on the page.” – Dr. Rosemary Sasson.

“If your handwriting is barely legible, it makes them think that you are not really an organized person. That you are writing too fat and not thinking about it.” – Adam Levinson.

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