I miss the Palmer Method of penmanship. Yeah, I'm surprised, too.
For those of you who didn't attend Catholic elementary school in, say, the sixties, the Palmer Method is a form of cursive writing that aims for smoothness and consistency via right-slanting, every-letter-connected, smoothly looped writing. Among its touted benefits is the ability to take quick, legible notes for an hour or more with little or no finger cramping.
Daily drills required students like me to write dozen of o's and as many m's. My capital e was supposed to be identical to my best friend Ellen's, and everyone's small g was supposed to curve at the same place.
Nowadays, such drills are considered individuality-quashing. Back then, they gave me and my peers a break from diagramming sentences or doing long division on the chalkboard.
That's why we never rebelled openly against the handwriting regimen--not even when the left-handers among us were forced to hold their pens in their right hands. Our rebellion was subtle: a spike rather than a loop or a straight-up rather than slanted letter. Our writing developed individual quirks but remained pretty legible.
My sudden nostalgia for the Palmer Method is due to the fact I've been reading a lot of student writing done with paper and pen—and it's harder than you'd think to decipher manuscript (not cursive) handwriting, especially when letters slant left, right, and stand straight up within the same word.
Some of the writing I see appears tortured; pens stab the paper here and skip there. Austin Palmer, the Palmer Method's founder, had it right: students exert more effort printing each letter separately than linking them in one fluid motion.
Do I want a return to endless penmanship drills? No, but I'd like to see school kids learn cursive for its ease of motion. Yes, I know keyboarding is a more important skill than handwriting in the twenty-first century, and I thoroughly appreciate email, laptops, and phones with itty-bitty slide-out keyboards.
That said, there are times when we must pick up a pen. Holding a pen or pencil shouldn't seem unnatural. Handwriting should be as effortless for school kids as typing. Manuscript writing may be easier for little ones to learn, but cursive's easier to write quickly and over a sustained period of time.
What's your opinion of cursive? Is it a pleasure or did you ditch it in favor of printing as soon as you left elementary school? Did you learn cursive in school or was it all manuscript, all the time?