essay was completed as part of my National Novel Writing Month
effort in November 2011. It has been slightly edited from the
format used at that time, and likely will be edited again at some
point in the future. For now, here it is…
there you are, sitting in your third grade… fifth grade… eighth
grade class. Most likely the eighth grade class or some point
in high school. And the teacher is droning on. And on.
thought swirling around your head is simple: “When am I ever going
to need this stuff?”
let’s face it, the reality is when it comes to setting up an educational
curriculum, the voices of a student or two rising up against the
books and tests for physics don’t exactly receive warm welcome
from the powers that be.
hey… should they?
all know that a low percentage of us will ever need to be able
to calculate the results involving mass and friction and a pair
of sneakers. And yet we all know an object in motion will stay
in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest and… well… ok,
we don’t all know those laws, but we do know the basics.
doesn’t stop the educational providers from thinking that maths
and sciences and foreign languages will help us out. And the reality
is, they’re right.
physics lessons? The people designing your next car cared about
you can’t get your lawn to grow, the people helping you out paid
attention and learned lessons of biology and chemistry and such.
don’t just know how to weld and solder and wear their pants low.
diverse education is beneficial even if you don’t utilize all
of the details in your personal lives and professional careers.
I may never need to know what causes waves on the ocean or the
anthropology of walking… but I do, and I can say I actually think
about both subjects every so often, and I’m probably better off
because of the classes and knowledge.
occasionally learning what you don’t like can be just as valuable
as learning what you do like.
idea here is… maybe you won’t need it, but you can benefit from
having heard it.
any of you know the math involved in a triangle?
like a silly question. Of course you don’t. No one cared about
that stuff while studying geometry. In fact, all we remember from
the class is the stupid punch line: “Gee. I’m a tree.” (And we
don’t even recall the joke itself.)
decided to build a deck or a shed or a tree house in the back
yard. And the project is quite sizeable. We’re talking sixteen
and twenty-four and thirty foot lengths to be covered. Elevated
surfaces and gambrel roofs.
the initial stages, you’re sorting out some measurements and perhaps
even walking around the yard with stakes and a roll of string
to map things out. So…
corner you want squared off. Is it? Is it square?
there’s one amazingly quick and easy way to tell.
properties of a right triangle… one of those fancy ones with a
ninety degree angle, or, go figure, a squared corner… involved
a funny set of measurements. Goes like this: a-squared plus b-squared
means if you start out from the corner and go three feet… then
move along the other line from the corner and go four feet… the
measurement between the three-foot mark and the four-foot mark
should equal five feet.
math is 3 squared plus 4 squared equals 5 squared. Or, nine plus
sixteen equals twenty-five. (Which it does.)
rule is often referred to as the three four five rule and is pretty
commonly known and relied on by contractors and carpenters, on
construction sites and home improvement projects. It’s a simple,
and effective, tool.
also the stuff of teenage nightmares and cries of “we’re never
going to need this” echoing down high school halls. Born of theories
and corollaries and formulas that needed to be memorized for Friday
morning’s surprise quiz.
few teenagers are thinking of the addition they will be planning
for their home one day. And… no teacher is recognizing it as the
perfect example of a future where the student most definitely
will benefit from the lessons of that day.
brings us to hand-writing. And, more specifically, cursive.
can tell you something that thirty years ago or more, even with
computers beginning to take hold and Commodore 64s appearing in
the neighborhood and something called Apple starting, that today
may have you scratching your head.
one believed typing was a skill every student should be taught.
know. In these days, even with handheld devices and cell phones
and shortcuts and text options, the thought of not being able
to use a qwerty keyboard seems a bit silly. It’s virtually a required
item for doing anything with a computer… especially a desktop
I was in school, the basics of computer programming were taught.
And by basics, I mean BASIC. The computer language. You know...
10 print “school sucks”
20 goto 10
the hilarity begins.
formula would be the cornerstone of all sorts of jokes, and yet
also education when it came to computers. Because by tweaking
the lines and inserting more commands, computers could do math,
repeat formulas, and so on and so forth.
years later I was still using a typewriter for all my school reports…
which made my first draft of any report a final draft, because
I was not going to retype the entire paper. White out ruled the
day for spelling errors. And I had a roommate talking about his
investment in a computer that used something called Windows.
was a glorious time.
in graduate school, my parents suggested I buy a word processor.
Because computers were still too expensive and not really necessary.
kid you not.
were far ahead of the curve, and forward thinking.
days the question is whether or not to even teach cursive in schools.
It isn’t worth the investment, since everyone communicates off
of computers or similarly organized and run items. Heck, it’s
more important to know the telephone dial and which letters line
up with which numbers than it is to know how to write out a business
hand-written communication techniques are now more art than application.
And as tablets take over, and everything you buy is able to interconnect…
from your smart phone to you DVD player to your camera to your
car radio… a hand-written letter is less and less necessary today
than yesterday. It’s a luxury. Knowing how to use computer software
and different hardware is necessary.
do show that writing things out… longhand it’s called… help with
learning. It increases and improves memory. It assists with figuring
out the nuances and pronunciations of language. Currently ninety
percent of the states in America don’t believe that cursive is
necessary or relevant to the real world applications. Instead,
participation in the worldwide, computer driven, digital applications
requires that time be pulled from teaching some subjects in order
to be devoted to others.
I suppose where we arrive is that educators aren’t saying handwriting
isn’t important. They’re just saying it’s less important.
I went to school it was the three Rs… reading, riting, and rithmatic.
(Ha ha… see how the words sound and that’s so funny to say the
three Rs? Anyway…) These days only parts of that are true. And
by parts, the reading.
sure, people will tell you that writing is important. The reality
is, it’s not. In order to function, you do need to be able to
communicate. And communication requires a certain ability to write.
But we’re so focused on shortcuts and informal approaches that…
ok… rambling aside… Twitter.
get 140 characters to make your point. That’s it. Fit it into
140 spaces or be forced to make a second entry. So what do people
do? They drop letters. Thanks becomes thanx because even a single
character adds up. Before becomes b4 because that’s a huge savings.
In 1985 Prince was being funny and cute by writing things out
with shortcuts and letters. Today it’s virtually required.
will say brevity is important, and I can’t argue that point. That
last paragraph would have needed three Twitter posts. So, brevity
helps. And it works. But…
you read some of your e-mail lately? Because we’re developing
into a collection of lazy bums that can’t write anything clearly
the arithmetic? Lordy… there’s an app for that.
the funny thing though… you can argue with me all you like about
the 3 4 5 rule and cursive and what is and isn’t important.
want you to think of the last time you filled out a job application…
wrote a resume… interviewed a candidate for a position with your
company… whatever, as long as it involved being part of a job
search. And, were you asked or did you ask any questions that
involved whether or not you or the candidate could write in cursive?
a resume you listed your education and maybe even a qualification
statement. Perhaps you had a goal. You elaborated on special skills.
You noted certificates of accomplishment and training. Maybe…
maybe… you told about hobbies and personal interests and references
available upon request.
did note your ability to write in cursive.
yet over the past twenty years about the only change to your resume…
the only thing you get scolded for… is your e-mail address. Other
items fall in and out of fashion. But e-mail? If you didn’t have
one, it was a quiet statement that you weren’t connected to the
world around you. How could you say you knew how to operate a
computer and were quick to learn and adapt to new technologies
if you didn’t have an e-mail address? Heck, they’re free. Go get
one! And if you did have one, you might want to rethink it. Because
“easydate@” was not a good start, nor was “beerpongking@” or “weekendwhore@”
for a name. Not that professional.
I asked you if your resume was up to date, you might have to check.
The phone number might have changed. Maybe you moved once or twice
since the last time you needed a resume. New e-mail address. Something.
And you just don’t know if the information on the resume is accurate.
writing in cursive? You already know it’s not on there. No need
to even check.
years from today, what subjects being taught in school are you
going to need?