WASHINGTON. Unemployed penmanship instructors marched on Congress yesterday, the last vacation day before most elementary school students return to school, demanding that the federal government commit $40 million to improve America’s handwriting in order to avert a looming catastrophe.
“America faces a penmanship crisis of gargantuan proportions,” asserted Albert Maffei, a penmanship instructor who has been out of work since 2008. “And when I say ‘gargantuan’, I make my ‘g’s’ with a nice round circle, a straight line down, and a curvy loop back up to the point of beginning.”
The good old days.
Penmanship has fallen into disfavor among elementary educators, who have fastened on keyboarding skills as a means to justify budget requests padded with computer purchases. “Time will tell whether the computer is here to stay,” noted Donna S. Orthwein, former Director of Penmanship for the Green Ridge, Mo., Consolidated School District, “but children will always be able to hold a pen, unless they lose their hands in a tragic accident using a farm implement during corn de-tasseling season.”
American high school students are regularly out-performed on international penmanship tests by students from Japan, Sweden, Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso, where good handwriting is a highly-prized trait among young men of marriageable age. “I would give two goats, a cooking pot and a toaster oven to have a son-in-law whose capital ‘T’s’ have those little curly-cues at the top,” said Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who must take particular care when signing official documents that his “a’s” don’t look like “o’s”.
The high-water mark of American penmanship was reached in 1957, when the Zaner-Bloser and Palmeri-Milligan companies, the two leading competitors in the field of handwriting instruction, staged a national steel-cage, lumberjack rules “write-off” between the nation’s top elementary school handwriting prospects.
In that match, Elizabeth Racunas bested Timmy Glosterbock in a triple-overtime struggle that ended when Glosterbock’s middle finger began to bleed from the pressure of his pen. The two became friends and eventually married, raising three children who went on to become penmanship whizzes themselves.
“It’s not like it was in our day,” says Timmy, now 64. “We competed against hundreds of kids back then. Last year, we were the only family at the tournament.”