The S.O. and I were down in Eagle River, Wisconsin, yesterday to help the now 12-year-old grandson celebrate his birthday. A fair number of his friends were there, too. Coincidentally, his mother has been going through the kids' books in the house, some of which were purchased for Logan fairly recently and some for his older brother back in the '90s. One of the books I noticed was The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle -- it's a book written from the perspective of a Lakota youth who ends up being shipped off to the Carlisle Indian School in the late 19th century. It's a gorgeous book, beautifully printed, and tells an interesting and heart-wrenching story. It received a Christopher Award in 1995. And here's the thing: it's printed in cursive.
It's absolutely perfect cursive, but it's cursive nonetheless. Seeing the cursive printing in the book led to us talking about Ms. Jeantel and her admission that she couldn't read cursive. So we started wondering just how common that was. We called Logan and his cronies over. The kids ranged in age from 12 to 14. Two of them admitted outright they couldn't read it, a couple could make out words if they worked at it, and one could read it fairly easily. She stumbled a few times, but she could read it. These kids are in middle school, heading into 7th and 8th grades, and they were stumbling over a book written for kids in grades 4-6.
This led to Logan's mother (aka our Oldest Daughter) mentioning that back when she worked in a restaurant a few years ago, they had trouble with some of the high school students who worked busing tables or as waitresses. If a label or an order ticket wasn't in block printing, they couldn't read it. One girl kept screwing up orders and finally admitted she couldn't read the labels on the salad dressing bottles because they were in cursive script. This solved another mystery for me: why the graphics on commercial products more and more look like they're being marketed to 6-year-olds.
You know, I can understand not teaching penmanship in school anymore, but not teaching kids how to read cursive? That's bizarre. In a few years the government won't have to classify anything as Secret; all they'll have to do is print everything in Edwardian script.