As with all questions about what the kids these days know, I base my opinions on surely 100% reliable anecdotal evidence from interns. It seems every year or two I have to explain something new I assumed they’d know on arrival, so I use them as a gauge of how quickly the world is changing in little ways. At this point, the majority of them have never photocopied anything before their first day here. Ever. I may have discovered my incessant Google habit in college trying to unpack the copious allusions in Paul Muldoon’s “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants,”* but I still spent seemingly half of my college income buying Bobst copy cards.
A few times a year, we have to handwriting test our interns for the odd task that requires handwritten legibility. You’d be surprised how often I get a stack of 12 subrights contracts all missing the same clause, already signed by a far flung publisher who’d taken 6 months to put pen to paper to begin with on a contract they didn’t even have to draft. Handwritten contract changes require printing, of course, but I’ve found that whether we want print or script, it can be hard to find even one intern who can write legibly anymore. There have always been people who never learned or quickly unlearned how to write clearly, but the number of reasons to actually write with pen on paper just isn’t as high when you carry a computer in your pocket everywhere you go. The number of interns who can be counted on to handwrite a mailing label that we can be confident will arrive at its destination decreases yearly. The odd scribbled post-it to a roommate isn’t going to keep your penmanship in shape.
I’ve always prided myself on having nice handwriting (my Catholic school-reared mother has penmanship so impeccable that the bar was set very high in my household), but I wonder if Indiana isn’t on to something. Other than signing our names, how often do most of use cursive? You’ve got to be able to write clearly somehow, but these days, doesn’t print cut it for most things? Schools have a finite number of hours to instruct students, and penmanship instruction is probably not getting them anywhere productive. Yes, sure, they should learn to use a keyboard efficiently as early as possible—perhaps even instruction on predictive text and thumb typing would benefit them. I say they should get more spelling lessons as well, since the deep recesses of their brains will need reinforcing against the detrimental effects of text speak and internet acronyms. Let’s truly prepare the kids of today for the world of tomorrow!
What do you think? Anyone clinging to fond memories of that weird beige paper with really widely spaced lines? Are there still good uses of cursive?
P.S. It’s been a quiet week on the blog, between the holiday Monday and three agents being on vacation, but we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming next week! I’m sure you wait with bated breath.
*Nerd that I am, I count among the seminal weeks of my life the one I spent in the computer lab googling phrases in every poem in Quoof trying to figure out what Muldoon was getting at. It’s what made me realize that the internet knew the answers to virtually everything one might wonder, and it’s the first time I really put a great deal of research time into anything I was studying. It’s also the week I discovered the internet could lead you down a rabbit hole of fascination, obsession, awe, and disgust at the human condition, since the aforementioned googling led me to the transcripts of the then-ongoing Saville Inquiry. I basically lived in the computer lab that semester, devouring knowledge the internet could offer me. Man, I bet the interns don’t even set foot in the computer labs any more, do they?