Technology has always been popular with the bottom of the class.
Calculators! We don't have to learn arithmetic!
Spell-checking programs! It's a waste of time to learn to spell!
Search engines! We can skip doing research in dusty old books, and they'll never know!
As Miss Manners recalls, one of the most successful campaigns to avoid learning was conducted more than a century ago by wretched, ink-stained children who hated the penmanship instruction that used to be required.
Heralding the invention of the typewriter, they made the case that the ability to write legibly was no longer a necessary skill. Eventually, they prevailed. Penmanship was dropped from the curriculum, and they were allowed to sail through life writing illegible letters, memos, perscriptions and checks. Resistance to penmanship became so pervasive that having an illegible signature became a point of pride.
But the schools got even. They instituted typing class.
The pupils struck back, of course, but it was years at the keyboards before the argument that typing was a trade skill for low-level workers, and not a fit subject for academic study, led to the demise of typing class. It vanished just in time to leave the high-level types stranded when the arrival of the computer put them in front of unfamiliar keyboards.
Miss Manners admits to some unbecoming satisfaction at the dismay of gentlemen she recalls having bragged that they had no need to type because they had secretaries, and the advantage enjoyed by the ladies who had been told that typing was the only entry into the job market that they could expect.
She also has an interested motive for ensuring the survival of handwriting, because on it depends the survival of the serious letter: the response to a formal invitation, the letter of condolence, the love letter worthy of the name.
Less-formal letter writing had a charming revival thanks to technology. The chattiness that had inspired so many inopportune telephone calls and office breaks made its way into writing.
Now, it may do the same for handwriting.
So far, none of the methods that technology had devised for taking quick notes to oneself without handwriting has eclipsed the scribbled note stuck in the pocket and left there to go through the laundry with the shirt. Voice recorders mean that others can hear what is dictated. Hand-held organizers require a new and otherwise useless form of writing, or unfolding a keyboard.
Now, a generation of handheld devices is promising to read ordinary handwriting. If it can find any. Furthermore, the idea is that it will read all sorts of different scrawls, which is more than those who write them can promise to do.
More likely, it will inspire its owners to avoid frustration by conforming to some sort of standard that this device can read. There is nothing like a new toy to inspire learning. Miss Manners foresees the return of penmanship class.
Unlike the first time around, the boys will not be able to get away with what was once their favorite sport: sitting behind girls and dipping their braids into their inkwells. The girls, at least, have learned something. Miss Manners may rejoice at the revival of a lost art, but true progress also makes her rejoice.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I used to work for a company which is widely known for, among other things, making millionaires out of many of its young employees. I am not a millionaire, but I did have a great experience there and enjoy talking about it.
I don't bring the subject up, however, because when people find out where I used to work, they invariably say, "I didn't know you were rich!" or something to that effect.
I don't want to avoid all discussion of my former employer, but how can I deflect conversation away from my personal finances and back to this company's interesting history, corporate culture and personalities?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is afraid she has kept this question around too long before replying. When it arrived, the answer would have been, "Mind you, I'm not one of those people you read about. I just had a fascinating time there." Now, she would recommend dropping the second sentence.