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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Monday morning musings

Posted Friday, September 25, 2009, at 7:32 AM

This is the view from my front porch on this misty Monday morning.
It's 7 a.m. on a foggy Monday morning, and I'm wishing I could just go back to sleep on the couch with my cat Tybalt on my chest, but I need to come up with a column for the NSC this week. The ideas for our bi-weekly columns seem to come to me more slowly these days. I don't really believe that I'm thinking less, but the ideas seem more difficult to get down on paper. I feel creeping senility spreading its fingers around my brain...

I'm reading a book that a friend loaned me; it's called Hare Brain Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence increases when you think less. The author, Guy Claxton, tells about the strange conditions under which some authors can write. It seems that Pearl Buck had to have a vase of fresh flowers on her desk, Jean-Paul Sartre hated the country and had to see the chimneys of Paris outside his window. Schiller couldn't write poetry without the smell of rotting apples (now there's a weird one). Sigmund Freud had to chain smoke, Carlyle had to be in a sound-proof room, and Emerson had to be in a hotel room. I remember that Robert Frost made notes on bits of paper, which he pinned to his jacket as he walked in the woods.

These days, if we can't write in front of a computer, we're out of luck! And that is getting me close to the topic rattling around in my mind.

I find myself increasingly worried about the state of the English language. I recently had a conversation with a local pastor, who came into the office to pick up a copy of our Progress issue. First, he insulted the newspaper business by telling me that it was on its last legs ("Nobody reads newspapers anymore.") Then he alarmed me further by telling me that his youth don't read much of ANYTHING, besides text messages and Facebook! He said that they don't even e-mail. They exist in abbreviations: LOL, FYI.....etc. and etc. and etc.... He even tried to tell me that the colleges are "accepting" this form of communication.

In the latest ARP journal, one author stated that the reason it's so hard to get out accurate information on the health care debate is that Americans are getting their information from e-mail, blogs (uh, oh!), and talk radio. The author spoke of "the decline of the print media" as one of the reasons that mis-information and downright lies are so prevalent.

One of our faithful teacher bloggers told us recently that her high school students say they can't read her cursive writing on the board! They aren't using cursive writing anymore! Then she e-mailed me a Yahoo article about the decline in cursive writing: Some schools teach it in third grade only. After that, the students never have to write in cursive, because they use the computer for all their writing. The title of the article, written by Tom Breen of the Associated Press, is "Cursive writing may be fading skill, but so what?" The clear question is - Should we try to save the skill of writing in cursive script or is it hopelessly outdated?

I'm on our local library board, and we recently made the reluctant decision to cancel our magazine subscriptions and use that money for a yearly subscription to the MoreNet online library, whereby our patrons could access hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and journals. My question is - What happens if all the magazines and newspapers go under, and there's no one to get out there to do the research to write the articles in the first place?

Is it time for the old question, "What is this world coming to?"?

All these issues are clouding my brain this morning, while the fog continues to settle on field and pond.

I wonder if the smell of rotting apples would help my writer's block?

From the distant, fog-bound hills of rural Tillman, this is Madeline signing off on the First Day of Autumn.

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I find your mention of cursive writing interesting as I experienced this very thing Friday night. My great granddaughter was celebrating a birthday (9) and I gave her a card which she could read the printed card, but could not read the cursive note I made concerning the gift and how she might spend it. She said, "I can't read this". Perhaps it will come later in the school year.

Lord help us all if we need to depend on talk radio, blogs, and television to keep up on current events. Cheers this Monday morning.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Mon, Sep 21, 2009, at 8:14 AM

That is a concern of mine, as well. Too many of the people I talk to think that if they read it on the Internet, it's true. What a crying shame. I love to read a finely crafted news story. I revel in the well written English language. How diverse, how evocative, how illuminating our language can be. Today I see more of the base and mundane. Anna Quinlinden and George Will are the rare exception rather than the norm. How sad. It used to be said that newspapers were written to a seventh grade reading level. Now I fear it is less.

I am apalled that students can no longer read cursive writting. I know there has been a decline in the readability of cursive writting for decades, but I did not realize it had gone so far. My own cursive is not great, but legible. I have always envied those who can write with an elegant hand.

I fear we have become too reliant upon computers and word processors. We opt for the quick and easy. Be warned. The more comlpex the technology, the more fragile it is. If something comes along to distroy our computer networks, will you be helpless to communicate? Not much can disrupt the technology of the written word on a piece of paper.

I'm not saying not to use high tech, but be prepared and be able to use low tech as well.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, Sep 21, 2009, at 10:39 AM

A concern of mine as well. Has been since the Y2K scare. That whole scenario really got my grey matter sparking. Example; what would be the most effective way of attacking this country? My answer then, and now is, "EMP (electromangetic pulse)". It would literally shut this country down because of our reliance on technology with very little manual back-up strategy. Another example; have you eaten out lately? Do you think the people behind the register could have checked you out if the power was lost to the register? Would they have known how to mathematically figure the tax on the bill? Would they have even been able to know what the entree cost without pushing an icon on the computerized screen?

How many households these days are total electric? How many of those have back-up power supplies? At the gas pump, how many people would know how to get the gas out of the underground tank if the power was lost?

Just some things to think about. Happy Monday.

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Mon, Sep 21, 2009, at 1:27 PM

These are thought-provoking responses. I enjoyed each one. Last week in my class, I wrote student computer passwords for each on a small card. They must have a password in order to sign on to a school computer. When we got to the library, which no longer has a card catalog--just a computerized catalog system, many of my students came to me to ask what their password was. Without raising my voice( I was in the library for goodness' sake), I said, "I just gave you a card with your password written on it." They could not read it! I had written it in my best cursive handwriting, which I might add is pretty darn good! I've had a few students in the past who could not read cursive or any other kind of writing. This year, a large percentage cannot. I am about to consider giving up to print--even on the board! It will be difficult to break the habit, but I may have no choice. It is not their fault that they are "handicapped" in such a way. They were not taught to read or write cursive handwriting in elementary school!

What do you think, bloggers? To print, or not to print?

By the way, MD, do you have a cat named Mercutio?

-- Posted by GONENOW on Mon, Sep 21, 2009, at 5:22 PM
Madeline DeJournett's response:
I admit that I'm at a loss on this one, GN. I think I would have to say "print," if for no other reason than you have to pick your fights -- and if the cursive issue proves to be a big distraction from your main purpose (which, in that case, was research) you may just have to give in and go with the flow.

On this issue, I feel much like I did the year in Alaska, when the English department decided to "dumb down" their classes, abandon the survey courses and teach subjects like "Literature of the Westward Movement," and "Leisure Reading." One junior came to me and asked if I had any Shakespeare he could read. He didn't want to leave high school without having been at least exposed to it.

No, GN, I don't have a cat named Mercutio, but I do have one named Balthasar! Haha! My daughter and I considered Mercutio for our yellow tabby, but he just wasn't the type!

Maddy, "dumb down"...I had my first "Excuse me!?!?" moment several years back when I was working at the local community college and I was talking with one of our developmental English instructors. She had asked for those of us who had kids to bring in any extra 'graphic novels' (comic books) for her to use in some of her classes. The idea was that if she could get them to read them, they were at least reading...sheesh...

Kudos to your student who wanted to experience Shakespeare.

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Tue, Sep 22, 2009, at 8:35 AM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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