Monday, September 28, 2009

The Decline of Handwriting

I am very proud of my beloved son, Daniel Patrick Gallagher. But there has always been one source of contention between us....his handwriting. Chicken scratching in a field on the eastern plains of Colorado seems more legible. I have always felt Daniel Patrick's almost letter less signature quickly scrawled across the page has been some sort of rebellion on his part toward his father who still uses a broad point fountain pen, and occasionally a goose quill (but only for contracts at the city about which I feel goosey). I tried my best to encourage him to take up calligraphy. I wish he could have met Sister John Joseph, Sister of Loretto who taught me cursive at Holy Family Grade School here in North Denver. And I say mea culpa, I admit my fatherly failure to encourage him to legible writing.

Consider this short dialogue from our conversation about his filling out his ballot in the last election:

"Daniel, be sure to sign your name neatly so the folks at the Denver Clerk's Office can read it," I suggested.

"Dad, if I write neatly they will think it's not me writing. The Clerk's Office will think someone else signed my ballot," he responded with clarity and logic.

"Sign your ballot, my son, the way you always sign, so there is no doubt it's yours," resigned to his logic I capitulated with a wave of my right hand, my writing hand.

I am distressed to read that many school districts around the country have abandoned classes on handwriting. School districts seem to be shouting, "A curse on cursive!" I don't have room in this short essay on why I think this is such a bad idea, but we will discuss this in another communication.

Poorly written signatures have affected the election process. It begs proper internal controls. Folks signing petitions in our country now have to print their names next to their signatures of letter less scrawls. Election workers have considerable trouble verifying signatures as they audit the sloppy shaky scratches. The words John Hancock, the distinctive signature on our nation's Declaration of Independence, were written distinctively enough, according to John, so King George III would "not have to put on his bifocals to read it." His name still equates to a neatly written signature writ large enough for all to read.

Final word of argument from my son, Daniel Patrick:

"Dad, why do I need a signature? I have my computer and soon we will all have electronic signatures which will do away with hand written signatures all together."

And Daniel Patrick speaks the truth, a prophet in his own digital time. The troublesome contract process at the city of Denver could be sped up considerably and still retain internal controls with a verifiable and secure electronic signature process. Sister, bring on the ruler!

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