I am trying very hard not to be doomed

Oh, god. I blame kniedzw. And also the research question that sent me to my bookshelf last night, searching for a book that was not in either of the sections I expected it to be in, so I scanned along the shelf looking for it, and found this instead.

I had completely forgotten that Once Upon an Eon Ago, kniedzw purchased the Spencerian System of Practical Penmanship.

Which is a reproduction of an honest-to-god 1864 system of penmanship instruction. This thing is . . . wow. The theory book starts with “Signals,” which are the cues the teacher should use, “by bell, tap, or by counting, at the teacher’s discretion.” They are as follows:

  1. Position at Desk.
  2. Arrange Books.
  3. Find Copy and adjust Arms.
  4. Open Inkstands — In double desks the pupils on the left (the pupil’s right) will open and close inkstands.
  5. Take Pens.

At this point the teacher should pay particular attention to giving instruction in penholding. When ready to write, give the order to TAKE INK.

No, seriously. I have this vivid image of a dank, grim little classroom, the teacher standing stiffly at the front, rows of bows and girls at the desks in uncomfortable suits and dresses, moving like proper little Victorian automata while the teacher rings his bell. Which probably isn’t far off the mark.

The real question, of course, is whether I am going to subject myself to the Spencerian System for the letters from the Onyx Court. I know better than to put this to a popular vote; you all, being not the ones who would suffer through it, will cackle and tell me to doooooo iiiiiiit. And I am so very much not sure it would be worth it. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop myself . . . .

Edited to add: oh my god, it’s even worse than I thought. The instructions for each exercise!

Turn in n, x, and v, at top and base the same, i.e. as short as possible with continuous motion. The x combines Principles 3, 1, 2, 1. The v combines 3, 1, 2, 2. After the combination is written, finish x by beginning at the base line, crossing upward through middle of First Principle, with a straight line, on the same slant with curves, and ending at upper line. Finish v same as w. Count 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, dot 1, cross, cross.

No really, I think the teacher is supposed to be counting out each movement for the students. I am increasingly afraid of this book.

0 Responses to “I am trying very hard not to be doomed”

  1. jimhines

    I weep to think what this sort of environment would have done to my kids, especially the boy…

    But yes, this would be way cool to read about in your next book 😉

  2. la_marquise_de_

    Eep! That is very scary indeed.

  3. alecaustin

    So many of the ‘efficient’ and healthy systems of the 19th and early 20th centuries (like motion study in manufacturing) turned out to be horrifying recipes for repetitive stress injuries and the like, didn’t they?

  4. malsperanza

    OTOH, all those emotional cripples back then did have gorgeous handwriting.

  5. Anonymous

    Is this really dramatically different from the sort of rote repetition and strict timing exercises necessary to master, say, piano, ballet or a martial art? If your goal is to effortlessly, reliably perform a scripted set of movements, then this does seem to be the way to do it. The difference is that these days nobody cares about handwriting, so were amused/horrified by the idea that anybody would put such effort into it. And as a result, all of our handwriting (including mine) is terrible.

  6. starryniteynite

    I remember learning cursive in parochial school, and my teacher would actually count out the strokes in this sing-song voice while brandishing a ruler. She was a nun, so naturally, we were all terrified.

    Then we moved somewhere in the middle, and I never learned the letters L-T. And, because I was *that* kid, I was horrified that someone might find out my terrible, terrible secret and make me go back to second grade to re-learn penmanship.

  7. kendokamel

    Perhaps you could use it as a cautionary tale…

  8. sgac

    I had a typing teacher that did something similar. The subject was called ‘Keyboarding’ but we used computers (mid-nineties). Every single lesson, setting up by opening the typing program and the working file was done accompanied by the chant ‘Alt-F, O for Open…’ while she stood at the back of the classroom to make sure everyone’s screen showed the same thing. A relief teacher was very surprised to find out that we literally could not open a program without this litany.

    • Marie Brennan

      Heh. I don’t remember us having that chant, but yes, I did a “keyboarding” class twice in elementary school — so that would be early nineties or so — that featured a lot of ffff jjjj ffff jjjj fjfj fjfj and so on. The repetition here is totally familiar; it’s the counting that raises my eyebrows.

  9. shui_long

    They would – even in the 1920s my father, who was by nature left-handed, was forced to learn to write with his right hand.

  10. Anonymous

    Oops — this got caught by the spam filter, but for some reason I didn’t get the notification. Anyway, while you do have a point (and quite a good one) I’d say there are a few differences between this and the training for piano, ballet, or a martial art, all three of which I have personal experience with.

    First, none of those three — or anything else comparable — are expected to be skills possessed by the entire populace, or even the entire middle-class-or-better-educated populace, whereas handwriting is; we require kids to learn it whether they want to or not, whether they have any aptitude for it or not. (Which happens on an individual level with those three, too. But not a society-wide one.) Ergo, the fascist tone of this system is more off-putting.

    Second, none of my training in those three elevated repetition/timing to the status of Most Important Thing. All three of them talked far more about the expression behind the movements — a focus which is entirely absent from this system. It doesn’t talk at all about the flow of a word; it talks instead about making certain every letter slants at the exact same angle, or moving your forearm with precisely the right motion to create that curve.

    Third, and related to the above, the goal in all three of those fields is not to get me to mechanically replicate the approved movements. My teachers encouraged me to develop my own expression within the confines of the orthodoxy. Again, this system shows no desire for that; it aims to turn out as many identical results as possible.

    Mind you, some of that is as much a matter of time period as it is subject matter. If you were a middle class or upper class girl back then, you probably got sat down at the piano bench whether you wanted it or not, had any talent or not, and your teacher was a lot less concerned with making you into an artist than making you into a cookie-cutter competent pianist. And there was also variation; certainly lots of people went on from horrible rote training in somebody’s approved handwriting system to develop their own personal styles. But I’ll also argue that our terrible handwriting today isn’t so much that we don’t care as, we have less occasion to practice. People still admire nice handwriting, and wish theirs was better (I know I do) — but it’s less of a daily necessity, more of a hobby. Putting effort into it is fine, but our approach these days would be less fascist.

  11. Anonymous

    How To Boost burberry So That You Could Rock The pliage Industry

    AoqYrx A Lazy [url=http://longchamps2013.tripod.com/]longchamps[/url] Accomplishment ZhxP
    Consumers CwlZqp[url=http://www.saclancelsoldes2013.biz]sac lancel[/url] ErbZzb MqbRvm
    Most of us have enjoyed getting our own [url=http://longchampsoldes2013.devhub.com]longchamp soldes[/url], an empty sock or formed tote that we say goodbye upon Christmas Eve to ensure that Father christmas along with [url=http://longchamppliagesolde.devhub.com]boutique longchamp [/url], Custom claims that a kid who has misbehaved throughout the year is only going to receive protuberances associated with fossil fuel within his/her stocking [url=http://isabelmarantsneakers11.devhub.com]Isabel Marant sneakers [/url]. kids utilized among their very own socks or stockings for any Xmas stocking, [url=http://www.saclancelsoldes2013.info]sac ¨¤ main lancel[/url] are utilized. Numerous families make their very own and place names upon to make sure [url=http://www.saclongchampsoldes2013.info]Sac longchamp[/url] will understand whose stocking is actually whose.
    As a professional hair stylist [url=http://isabelmarantsoldes.over-blog.com]isabel marant collection[/url], Recently i had a person request me personally [url=http://isabelmarnatbaskets.over-blog.com]sneakers isabel marant[/url] if Audrey Kitching’s present hair color (pink with white [url=http://saclongchampfr.over-blog.com]sac longchamp[/url] ‘bronze-ish’ skin tone. Which obtained me personally thinking… [url=http://guessmontre.over-blog.com]guess[/url] if you have fair pores and skin as well as light golden-haired eyebrows, [url=http://michaelkorsmontre.over-blog.com]michael kors collection[/url] won’t function if you wish to appear natural.
    OpyDfw [url=http://bagsburberrycanada.weebly.com/]bags burberry[/url] BemIew [url=http://sacslongchampssoldes.tripod.com/]sacs longchamps soldes[/url] GcoGjr [url=http://sacslongchampssoldes.devhub.com/]sacs longchamps en solde[/url] RogAzk Where [url=http://bagsburberrycanada.zohosites.com/]burberry online[/url] slip up on
    [url=http://soldessaclongchamps.weebly.com/]longchamp soldes[/url] QjqMpn
    The Incredible Hidden Knowledge Of Methods [url=http://www.lacostecheap.info/]lacoste shoes[/url] You Can Rule uk Devoid Of Any [url=http://www.lacostecheap.info/mens-lacoste-shoes-c-275.html]lacoste salelacoste sneakers[/url]|[url=http://www.lacostecheap.info/lacoste-shirts-mens-c-300.html]lacoste polo shirt[/url]|[url=http://www.lacostecheap.info/womens-lacoste-shoes-new-c-293.html]lacoste shoes[/url]! Couple Of Ideas For [url=http://isabel-marant-basket.manifo.com]baskets Isabel Marant[/url] You Can Use [url=http://longchamp-cuir.manifo.com]longchamp sac[/url] Immediately RlaPnv [url=http://michael-kors-france.manifo.com]sacs michael kors[/url] 2013

Comments are closed.