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Technology making the basics obsolete

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 2:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 9:41 p.m. CDT

At the risk of outing ourselves as hopelessly ancient and out of touch, allow us to lament the demise of penmanship education as yet another victim of the technology that is supposed to signal progress, though sometimes we wonder.

Lump it in the same category of extinction as the practice of teaching children the basic math skills essential for making change. OK, maybe that is still taught, but if you’ve ever confronted a teen at a cash register, thrown in a quarter after he or she has rung up the sale, and witnessed the deer-in-the-headlights look that more than occasionally follows, you know of what we speak.

The Common Core standards coming to a school near you that nationalize what American kids are expected to know do not require students to learn cursive writing, most states are going along with it, and we guess we’re only surprised that it took this long. No one writes on the job anymore, we’re told, they type (and often with their thumbs, but that’s another editorial). No one writes a check requiring a signature – someday, perhaps soon, it will be a fingerprint – they pay all their bills online with the touch of a few keys. Handwritten thank yous are a dinosaur of a different era, as well (though allow us to say that getting one still means a lot, in our book. Right, we know: A book? What’s that?).

Fair enough. Let’s face it, a tweeted version of the Declaration of Independence simply wouldn’t have as much flair, nor would it be as easy to display in a museum, not that anyone cares much about history anymore, either.

Far be it from us to stand in the way of progress – not that we could even if we wanted to – though it sure seems that every software upgrade in the workplace requires more steps and more time to accomplish the same old tasks.

Ever had someone text you from their iPhone rather than just walk across the room to talk?

The techies will forgive us, but it sometimes seems that a fair amount of what is invented anymore by some very smart people serves in the end to make many of us dumber – unable to count, unable to spell, unable to converse with others – if also poorer, as for many it only promises fewer, lower-paying jobs rather than more, higher-paying ones in a world where what you learn today is already irrelevant tomorrow.

If you’re old enough to remember 1970, or 1990, or even the year 2000, the technological advancements of just the last few years are a marvel. Who could have predicted then the world of information that is now at our fingertips? Google guesses what you’re to write before your write it, and often quite accurately.

But arguably there should still be a place for the basics – basics that we dare say transcend technology – just in case all the lights ever go out and stay that way a while. Alas, there may come a day when the alphabet itself becomes obsolete as we evolve into communicating through grunts of various inflections, or have chips implanted in our foreheads that permit us to read each other’s minds. Can hardly wait.

The Peoria Journal Star

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