Tag Archives: Constitution

Raiders of the Lost Art

A couple weeks ago my writer and blogger friend Gordon posted about a couple of wing-nuts who were making him shake his head. One particular woo-woo of interest was Starre Vartan who was writing for the Mother Nature Network and has serious issues with the decline of cursive writing. Among other thoughts on the matter she had this to say: 

“They [children] won’t be able to read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or anything written during the Civil War.  They’re missing an entire portion of our country’s history.”

To which Gordon had a few things of his own to say. His thoughts are best summed up by the title of his post: There’s this thing called “reality.” You might want to check it out.

Given that a large portion of the history of writing has religious significance I’m actually quite surprised that Ms. Vartan didn’t take the “if you don’t write in cursive you’re the spawn of the Devil” route but then again, maybe she’s not quite a full-fledged member of the Tea Party.

There was no app for that.

At any rate, we’re not here to discuss how the lack of cursive is ruining the world. Or are we?

The art of writing goes back thousands of years. Longer if you consider things like hieroglyphs (which we won’t). There is some debate surrounding this but let’s just say that the first novel ever written was Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and published in 1485. The thing is, by this time the printing press was well established and while the book may have been written in script it was published using typography.

The way I see it, all cursive writing did was draw a line between the classes. If you couldn’t read and write then you were worthless; either dirt poor or a slave, or both. If you could read and write then there was hope for you, but you were likely just part of the working class. If you could craft a beautiful line of perfect cursive text though, well, then you were extremely well educated and most likely well off financially. After all, you could afford to practice, practice, practice. All those quills, paper, and ink weren’t cheap you know.

When public education became more prominent the whole idea of writing as a discipline made sense. Everything was written and everything had to be read. There needed to be a system in place to keep it all in order. Cursive writing to the rescue! Plus, it had the added benefit of giving the children a fabulous exercise to assist with their dexterity and develop part of their brain that would not normally get this much attention. My daughter was still being taught cursive writing a couple years ago, but I’m not so sure it will be around for my son a couple years from now.

I dream of the day I never have to practice this with my kid

I say good riddance.

As far as I can tell, the tablet computer is pretty much bringing an end to all of it. It only took 500 years to get from that first printing press to having a printing press at the fingertips of anyone who knows the alphabet. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.

We’re supposed to be moving forward, not the other direction. Teach kids to print neatly and recognize printed letters and you’re teaching them to interact and understand the world as it is now and as it will be tomorrow. I’m a tactile guy and ideas flow more freely when I physically write them down. Plus, I tend to absorb more if I write it (apparently there’s a reason we remember what we write), but it’s a personal thing. There is absolutely no need for me to be concerned about the quality if I have the means to put it into some readable format for others if I need to.

The Tenth Circle of Hell: Cursive Writing

What I find more absurd is how the battle between touchscreen and qwerty came and went so quickly. Given people’s history of digging their heels in on similar issues, I was sure this debate would rage much longer and much more furiously than the whole cursive writing thing. It would appear that our friends at Blackberry appear to be the only ones still clinging to hope that the qwerty ship won’t sink.

Have you ever seen a teenager on a touchscreen smartphone? We don’t need to be teaching them cursive; handheld computers have taken care of that. We don’t even need to be teaching them how to spell; autocorrect and overly relaxed (i.e. stupid) online dictionaries have taken care of that. Put cursive in art class where it can receive proper attention because the other classes need to teach them how to live in the modern world. Now, all we need is a class teaching them how to look someone in the eye and have an actual conversation.

Equality Means Equal

Clearly the arguments pertaining to the separation of church and state as it pertains to the United States Constitution are nuanced and complex, as most arguments involving legal documents tend to be. Legal experts all the way up to the Supreme Court can debate, and many have, from here to tomorrow and still be no further along than they were yesterday. So it should not come as a surprise that when it comes to the general populous this debate rages furiously (and in circles) time and time again.

One observation I have is that there seems to be an over-abundance of people who refuse to see the bigger picture and acknowledge that as it pertains to matters of federal law it is a multi-layered and remarkably complex web in which it is all to easy to get tangled. I am certainly guilty of this, or have been on occasion, but also firmly believe that regardless of how the interpretation of law unfolds that there should be one indisputable characteristic: that the law is applied equally to everyone.


Another observation I have is that there are always people who will selectively interpret highly complex documents in order to further an agenda or attempt to force specific belief on others. There’s a certain irony to this when the U.S. Constitution is involved, seeing as parts of that document and it’s amendments were specifically written to allow everyone the freedom to believe whatever the hell they want even if you disagree and especially if you disagree.

A final observation, it’s really just different instance of the observation I just made, would be that there are a rather large number of Americans who apply this notion of selective interpretation to the Bible in an effort to tell another large number of Americans how they can or cannot live their lives.

This completely boggles my mind.

My friend Gordon over at Skeptophilia posits that, based on a recent survey done in the U.S., as many as 34% of Americans would support a theocracy. Granted, the question asked wasn’t, “Would you support a theocracy?” but still, the fact that so many people supported the idea of adopting Christianity as a state (34%) and/or federal (32%) religion is absolutely insane.

What’s really interesting about this is there wasn’t a mention of which denomination it would be or how it would be chosen. This actually makes me laugh, and it should, because it’s just that ridiculous. I am quite certain that it would be a remarkably difficult task to pin it down to one but if anyone’s taking bets put me down for a stack of Benjamins on Baptist. I am also quite certain that when it comes to specific interpretation of any version of the Bible that achieving consensus on everything in it would be damn near impossible.

So, to bring all of this together, what it all boils down to is that there are people who for one reason or another will fight tooth and nail defending the right for people to be able to believe what they choose and in the same breath use those very beliefs to attempt to dictate what other people – the ones who disagree with them – can and cannot believe themselves.

But this is a post about equality, so of course I’m going to point to the 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the rights of all legally married couples – regardless of the gender makeup of the marriage. That’s right, if you are married, then the U.S. Federal Government will grant you all the benefits that this entails. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, gay pretending to be straight, or straight pretending to be gay (does that happen?); if you’re married, that’s good enough for the Feds.

Naturally, when the decision came down, a good number of people (see above observations) went completely batshit crazy. The more recent decision in the summer of 2015 even more people went batshit crazy (or maybe it was the same people and they were just louder, I’m not sure). Regardless, this made me angry. Really angry. I happen to be in the (barely) majority opinion that everyone should be treated equally. It’s not a new concept. In fact, almost a couple thousand years ago some guy named Mark told a nice story about some guy named Jesus who said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Mark 12-31] That’s a pretty cool concept if you think about it, and you can find it in all kinds of religions all over the place. They even gave it an awesome name: The Golden Rule.

Bernard d’Agesci (1757-1828), La justice, musée de Niort.

The funny thing is, as far as marriage is concerned, the U.S. Government has declared that it’s none of their business. Marriage is marriage as far as the laws are concerned. They’ll mark down your Social Security Numbers and the marriage certificate number and make the appropriate changes to their files. It’s actually quite a nice showing of equality, and if you’ll permit me one grandiose expletive, it’s about fucking time.

Equality means equal.
There is no version of equality.
There is no sort of equal.
There is no equal, but…

Equality is an absolute, and on that there is no room for interpretation.

~ Andrew