I’ve lived in the Great State of Illinois all my life.
I use the modifier ‘Great’ for the purpose of distinguishing Illinois from other States known as ‘Not Great’or worse yet ‘Insignificant’ (e.g., Rhode Island). I also use it because that’s what Politicians here call it, and as everyone knows Illinois Politicians are renowned for their intelligence, honesty, and most importantly their ability to consume and digest prison food.
Our State was created in 1818 becoming the 21st State of the Union. The State Seal contains the official motto ‘Ego Expendas Pecuniam Tuam’ which translates to ‘I will spend your money.’
When not spending our money or avoiding creating a balanced budget through a loophole in the State Constitutional requirement to create a balanced budget which as written says words to the effect that a balanced budget must be created annually except during years in which it is not necessary to create a balanced budget, our Politicians grapple with many other issues critical to effective governance.
The Illinois Legislature regularly tackles such urgent issues as establishing Official State Birds, Official State Invasive Fish Species, Official State Losing Professional Football Teams and I’m sure eventually will get around to naming an Official State Ear Wax Removal System.
In the meantime, the big issue now being debated here is whether our School System should require students to learn to write in cursive.
From my personal research cursive as a form of written expression was created way back in 1626 when Peter Minuit, appointed director-general of New Netherland by the Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie (the Dutch West India Company), purchased Manhattan from the Lenape, or Delaware Indians, for $24-worth of trade goods, or so the story goes.
Suspecting the Delaware Indians just might be able to read printed words, the Dutch cleverly used the new cursive script to confuse them and suck them signing into that $24 ‘deal’. Evidence of this may be seen on the original contract on which the Chief of the Lenape, an Indian named Bob, marked an ‘X’ on the signature line of the contract.
Bob just as easily could have made his mark as an ‘F’ or ‘M’ or some other printed letter but used an ‘X’ presumably to impress the Dutch with his knowledge of the whole printed alphabet – or at least the first twenty four letters.
Flash forward to the present and the Legislature debating whether or not to require Schools to teach students to write in cursive.
To quote from a Chicago Tribune article, “The lawmaker pushing the idea says being taught the fancy script (emphasis added) can improve student’s learning abilities and help them read handwritten notes from their grandparents.”
Opposition in the Legislature claims that “such a requirement would put another burden on schools already struggling to meet other goals with limited time and money”.
As a grandparent this issue concerns me on a number of levels.
On the one hand, I understand the Legislature’s desire to cut back on frivolous spending on ‘fancy’ and otherwise unnecessary learning experiences. This has been a concerted effort for many years as reflected in our State’s student population’s overall test results which clearly demonstrate the success of the elimination of other useless skills such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
We simply can’t afford to teach fancy skills that might negatively impact critical life knowledge in such areas as climatic impact on biodiversity of the sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea due to the Rusted Container Ship Recycling industry there.
However, more relevant to me and as recognized by the Illinois League of Pro Cursive Lawmakers is the potential of my grandchildren being unable to read the little yellow stickies I leave for them in the bathroom when they come to visit reminding them (in cursive) to ‘LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT DOWN’.
This is a lesson which my grandchildren MUST learn if they are ever to establish a successful relationship with their future husband(s), wife(s), same sex individual(s), transgender person(s) or the odd goat(s) they may choose as life partners.
Believe me, life is not worth living being awakened by the primal scream of one’s partner using the facilities in the dark hours of the morning preceded by a muffled splashing sound. This is minimally a guarantee that cold cereal is on the line for breakfast – or worse.
A more important concern is that my grandchildren may someday find themselves sitting across from some grizzled old Danish guy holding a contract written in cursive in one hand and $24 worth of beads in the other negotiating the sale of their house!
Finally, having used cursive all my life, as a grandparent I’ve discovered I no longer remember how to print. (This is among a number of other things I seem to have forgotten lately but that’s another story.)
Thus, as I age further with my eyesight and hearing failing and my speech becoming less intelligible due to tooth loss or increasing phlegm balls interrupting my elocution, my only fallback position in communicating with my grandchildren will be written cursive which they will be unable to decipher unless the Illinois State Legislature finds the money to teach them the fancy script.
Somehow I have to believe learning cursive remains an essential life skill. At least until the letter ‘X’ suffices to convey the sum of all human written expression.