In regard to the question, "is any PR good PR," the answer goes something like this: “Yes, as long as you spell my name right.” What's implied is, “Just talk about me.”
In the Information Age, everyone is talking, and Andy Warhol’s precognition that some day everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame is already old history. Anyone with a web cam or a smartphone can be a star on youtube in under five minutes. But is it true that any PR is desirable?
Last week on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (a nonprofit educational organization of which I'm president) and its Campaign for Cursive committee were lampooned. Colbert made fun of the fact that the "AHAF" on the logo is printed, rather than cursive. Then he showed our C4C logo, the pink blob with googly eyes that we fondly call “Brainy,” and suggested it would give kids nightmares.
So, was that negative publicity, or did it matter because an influential TV show was talking about us? What were the results? We got about a dozen emails, two of which were from trolls (when you anonymously email a stranger, there’s apparently no need to be either polite or kind). They both stated basically that just because they don’t like to write in cursive, nobody’s kids should have the opportunity to learn this skill. Of course, that left ten supportive emails, and in fact, two of them said that if we offered a C4C T-shirt, they would buy one (we’ve decided to do just that).
No doubt a lot of people saw the segment, most of whom would otherwise never have heard of AHAF or C4C. That’s probably a positive. I am left wondering, though, what Stephen Colbert’s true feelings are about keeping cursive handwriting training in the curriculum--and what does his handwriting look like? A friend has suggested I mail him a copy of my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, but I think the title might just open up a can of worms. The important message is that current research indicates cursive training helps develop young brains--if they want to quit using it later, so be it, but there is a window of opportunity when it positively affects reading, spelling, and remembering.
Many people are not aware that more than 40 states have removed the requirement to teach cursive writing from the public school curriculum, Private schools still do teach it, putting public school kids at a distinct disadvantage. Kids who can't write cursive can't read it. Anyone interested in why removing cursive training is a very bad idea is invited to visit www.cursiveiscool.com. Happily, seven states have seen the need to keep it alive and have made new laws to return this important training to the curriculum.
I don’t have an answer to the question I posed at the beginning. But I’m hoping you, dear reader, will have some input. Please leave a comment.
I'm inclined to agree that the Colbert segment was, in fact, good PR. Because his style is to be falsely negative, he actually gave your cause a thumbs up.ReplyDelete
As for cursive, I'd have to read the literature/studies to be convinced it's a worthwhile. So many young people seem uneducated in historical facts, math, and other essentials. Schools have to allot their time carefully. Speaking of math and time, neither of my nieces (ages 9 & 10) can tell time by looking at a traditional clock, and they don't know the times table (6x6=36). Should they be spending time learning cursive? I honestly don't know.
Ah, "false negative" finally has a positive meaning. :) Yes, L.J., how Colbert opened the segment was the clue.Delete
I don't think it's cursive vs. math - not an either/or. We learned the time tables, time on an analog clock, and cursive. I think the issue is more classroom management, administrative overhead, parent support, etc. - that is, educational priorities, which have to begin with behavioral priorities - being what we call in Yiddish a mentsch. And that starts at the top.
As someone who's handwriting is atrocious - thirty seconds after I've written something, even I can't read it - I fully support the teaching of cursive. (My print is just as bad, btw. I have a friend from high school who only printed. He could write cursive, but didn't.) I remember learning cursive in school, and while I never got really good marks for penmanship, it was a joy to learn.ReplyDelete
There are a lot of developmental skills schools are ignoring, unfortunately, just as studies are showing how important they are.
You may be interested to know that chess is another skill that has been shown to help students in a number of areas, from the behavioral to the cognitive. And games have to be recorded - handwritten.
In answer to your question about publicity, or rather, specifically The Colbert Report, you have to realize that Colbert is a satirist and that he adopts a persona on the show. He is really quite the liberal, something a lot of conservatives don't get. Colbert, like his Jon Stewart, has several styles of satire - depending on the issue and the response they have to it - or response they want to evoke.
There's gentle satire, which can be used to poke fun at something they admire, to get something in the news (oh, this is unusual), to tweak someone (you should know better), etc. There's also serious satire, of varying degrees, from exposing hypocrisy to a be-outraged-viewer stance.
From what you describe, it seems to me his riff falls in the gentle satire. Colbert probably appreciates the value of cursive. (Have you seen his signature?)
OK, I just watched the segment. He's mocking two things: the Core Standards and the campaign for cursive. Not cursive itself, but how it's being presented. The people defending cursive made a poor case for it. Colbert's also relying on our memories of how tortuous it was to learn cursive.
My suggestion: Write him a letter thanking him for the publicity and say you appreciate his humor and suggestions for improving your message. Offer to analyze his handwriting. Include links to the educational studies (done by independent academics). If you want to banter, ask if you can use his image as the new logo instead of what you have.
In other words, join the fun, give him something positive to work with. And make sure whoever's explaining cursive knows what he or she is talking about. (It's not just smooth letters or faster writing - it's eye-hand coordination, etc. - all the developmental points you make.)
I think he'd appreciate a follow-up letter written in good humor with information, showing that while the issue is serious - perhaps more serious than he realizes - you are a good sport.
Let us know!
What's unfortunate is that the person Colbert showed is definitely NOT part of the Campaign for Cursive and we are not in favor of what she's teaching. A couple of weeks ago I was given 3 minutes on Fox News' Chicago affiliate to "debate" the cursive issue with another woman who has no background and has a vested interest, she's selling an app to teach a style of printed writing. They cut the 3 minutes maybe in half, but hopefully, I was able to get a few points across.Delete
I will send a letter, though not convinced he would ever see it.
Put me on the side of teaching cursive. If nothing else, writing in cursive is faster than writing block letters or printing.ReplyDelete
As an aside, I was shocked the other day when I gave my 31-year-old stepson a shopping list and he said he couldn't read my cursive.
Back to Colbert: I have not seen that particular episode, but as you mentioned, he is a satirist, so if he lampoons something...
Forgot to mention: I'd love one of those t-shirts!ReplyDelete
Email me your size, Marlyn, and I'll put you on the list :-)Delete
I only have one question: If the kids aren't learning cursive, how are they learning to write their signatures? Are legal documents now going to be signed so that "Print Your Name" and "Sign Here" look exactly alike?ReplyDelete
They are not writing their signatures. They are printing them.Delete
First of all, I LOVE David's suggestion. They're always looking for great material!ReplyDelete
Second, I've known for a long time, and especially since my bonus son had a stroke over ten years ago, that our brains wire and connect in very complicated ways, often having to do with physical movement, including our hands. Cursive, while learning it, requires a lot of concentration and focus, and would strengthen those connections.
Plus, I had a lot of fun trying to make mine "mine" for years, doing odd things with the letters e and r especially. A whole lot of personal expression would have been lost if I only printed.
Thanks for the post, Sheila!
A colleague of mine in CO worked with some people who'd had strokes. She had them do the exercises that are used with cursive training, along with music developed by a music therapist. It really helped them with rewiring their brain.
There are so many reasons to keep cursive.
Thanks for all the comments, everyone!
I remember something I saw from you years ago about how to tap into our creative energies using some doodling techniques. Those doodles were very close to cursive, if I remember correctly. Like the old warm-up exercises we used to do.Delete
Yes, it's called graphotherapy--Claudia Rose uses it in Written in Blood, the second book in my series, to help a young teen with her emotional problems.Delete
I am beyond outraged that 40 states don't mandate cursive writing. (I knew it was an incredible number but didn't know the exact number and didn't know the idiots had ALREADY done it.ReplyDelete
These students -- victims of bad school administrations and bad legislators -- will not be able to read cursive handwriting either. It is already difficult enough to read 19th century cursive handwriting even with extensive knowledge of cursive writing. I believe cancelling cursive writing is a sign that our civilization is crumbling and it is also a sign we have many rotten and incompetent legislators in 40 states and rotten/incompetent school officials as well. Why are we paying good money to people who ignore scientific findings and don't do their jobs AT ALL? Seeing that public school children have great educations IS their JOB and they are on this all too important issue failing wildly.
Without cursive writing these students cannot even write a help (or goodbye message when stuck in the snow.
Brenda P. Williamson
Brenda, we are in complete agreement. It only takes 15 minutes a day of classroom time to teach cursive. January 23 is National Handwriting Day. Help us at AHAF's Campaign for Cursive to put the spotlight on what's going on: www.cursiveiscool.comDelete
One additional point -- Some will say they can print their help messages but do they have that much time if stuck in the car writing goodbye notes ?ReplyDelete
Apparently I can't comment to a comment. Sheila, if you send a letter on the organization's letterhead, the producers will see it. Offer to come on his show - he might get a kick out of promoting your "idiot's guide..." - if you can deal with his wit. He's very sharp. Play along with the fun in your letter. Get your point across, but with humor and appreciation.ReplyDelete
Thanks, David. I will get it done.Delete