NORTH CONWAY, N.H. — Over the years the residents of this town tucked into a shoulder of the White Mountains have filled the pages of the local newspaper with heated comments about zoning, a bypass highway, a new school and who deserves to win the New Hampshire primary.
But few issues have prompted such passionate commentary in The Conway Daily Sun as the question of whether handwriting should be taught in the local schools. One day the paper carried 43 opinions on the topic. Most of them screamed: Of course they should. That includes the reader who said it wouldn’t make any difference, adding: “They can’t spell anyway.”
Maybe they can’t, but the schoolchildren of this community and of thousands of others scattered around the country aren’t being taught a skill so basic that it is almost always listed second in the ancient catechism on the function of schools. Not that the other two — reading and ’rithmetic — are being mastered by our young scholars either, but that’s for another day and another column.
We have in our time witnessed the shrinking role of the handwritten word. We no longer sign for gasoline at self-service pumps, and we write emails on a keyboard. The letter is as dead as a form of correspondence as the gavotte is as a form of dance. The other day I saw someone take out an $85,000 loan with an electronic signature. You would think you might employ at least one of those free plastic hotel pens to borrow $85,000, but it wasn’t necessary.
There are loads of romantic reasons — the kind I like best — for the perpetuation of the handwritten word, and I’m speaking about more than love notes. (In an age of LOL, does anyone still know what SWAK means? Ask your mom. She will.)