Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion: To Russia With Love

In a strange new turn of events, I ended up on primetime Russian national television yesterday night. Before I go on, let the record show that my appearance had nothing to do with anything relating to Valentine's Day -- the mail-order bride from Chelyabinsk notwithstanding. No, in fact that had nothing to do with it.

As it turns out, the mother of one of the students here at Immanuel works as some sort of diplomat with Russia, or in some similar capacity. Point is, she's Russian. Anyway, apparently the fact that there is a trend away from teaching cursive handwriting in American schools is of general interest to more than just us nerdy classical educators. Yes, the Russians are following this trend, even if you are not.

So this particular lady, knowing that we believe in and practice cursive handwriting instruction at Immanuel, asked my colleague -- her daughter's teacher -- if she would be willing to do an interview with RTR TV Russia. She had a contact that she could pull up, she said, and the interview would take all of ten, maybe fifteen minutes. My esteemed fellow-teacher agreed to do the spot; however, she wasn't feeling well on the scheduled afternoon of the interview, so she asked me if I would do it. I said sure. It sort of went on from there.

Now, those of you who know me know that my handwriting is, in a word, atrocious. Some of you who are named Dr. Gamble know this especially well, having slogged through countless bluebook pages of my microscopic, inchoate script. Since my becoming a teacher it has gotten a little bit better, and I must admit that I do find it easier to write neatly in cursive (indeed, I mentioned this merit of cursive in the interview -- not that you'll notice, unless you speak Russian). Still and all, my very-improved handwriting is hardly ready for primetime. See, normally I'd say "primetime" as a joke, while really just trying to convey that my handwriting still leaves much to be desired, and remains borderline embarrassing:

"What does this comment on my paper say, Mr. Demarest?"
"Uh, says 'write more neatly.'"
"Oh. I thought it said 'winter mobius nexus.'"
"Yeah, about that. So do you know what irony is, yet?"

So, my handwriting isn't even ready for metaphorical primetime, let alone real primetime. But my poor handwriting had greatness thrust upon it all the same. And the readiness was not all; it wasn't even most. Thankfully, the film-editing was. This will become clear to you if you watch the following video: at one point in the filming, I got so carried away with my defense of Western Civilization that I forgot to cross my lowercase 't'; you'll notice that the camera pans away right at that exact moment. What's more, I don't even teach the Language Arts block to my third- and fourth-graders because I'm responsible for teaching Latin in Immanuel's upper school during that time. So I've never taught handwriting.

Oh, well. Mikhail and Andre didn't seem to mind at all; either that, or Russians really enjoy irony. All in all, it was a fun experience. Also, I was reminded of how bad posture seems to strike at precisely those moments where it will be most unbecoming. Oh, well. Now Russia's evening news audience, however many million that might be, knows what all my best friends already know: that I grow more and more like an old man every year.

Lastly, before you go down to the video, I have to share the following translation of the accompanying piece (linked above and here), artfully rendered by Google Chrome. After reading this, you may find it difficult not to believe in the merits of teaching cursive:

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American children are now able to write does not necessarily

In American schools have decided to cancel classes penmanship. Officials responsible for Education, found that in an age of high technology is a waste of time. What do they think on this score by the schoolchildren and their teachers?

Fused a letter to the school board - five minutes is exactly the same archaism, like the ink on the party. Refuse penmanship collected in 41-m state. When computers are replacing textbooks and aypedy - notebooks, students will be well enough to write in block letters. And it seems to the case of the laptop battery sits.

"I know where it goes," Stacy says Diamond. "Here I am working in an office and almost did not write by hand, even leaving a note on a computer or smartphone. That is, if you do not write by hand in adulthood - why spend the time as a child?"

Argument "against" if assembled in a classic: "Write beautifully easy: to bring curls in primer, the letters have not jumped over the line, must spend significantly more time in the elementary grades than in the exact sciences. First, after the draft, then the notebook.

"I think the handwriting is important because this way we can learn to write in two ways," says Max Diamond.

Suppose, in the school penmanship canceled, the family Aaron Diamond's children will write together under the dictation of a parent. Father seems that the occupation is only at first glance useless. A child that bent over the words, developing motor skills, love to draw.

"This is important, it's almost art," convinced Aaron Diamond. "Let it not necessary in the workplace, but it develops. If we abandon all that is impractical, then we are in a very different world. Everything will be black and white."

If the reform will affect public schools, private, such as in Arlington, for daring trends in education will not chase: parents choose a school just because it is conservative. On the Abolition of penmanship former students will remember when they become students, ironically teacher Trent. It was at that moment when people will have a flash write notes in lectures.

"They say it is useless in this age of hi-TEC, and we hurry to move forward, rather in the exact sciences, in mathematics, " says primary school teacher Trent Demarest. "But some skills come gradually, such as calligraphy. It takes a long time, concentration, discipline, and even creativity."

As skilled note-taking pushes high-speed printing shows the last championship in New York, where the winner is printed on the phone, the text of 264 characters for 77 seconds. The dispute is reminiscent of another, one that begins in the mid-60's: student writing pen or a ballpoint pen. Today, the poem "Calligraphy," which was written by Sergei Mikhalkov, in North America just want to add, "The letter letter, syllable by syllable, but recognizes the scanner and the program."

Can I get an "Amen?"



  1. That Google Chrome translation answered all my questions and more. It delivered a large dose of the best medicine. I say "Amen!"

  2. This makes me happy! I love that Russia did a primetime special on cursive writing. Your writing did look slightly improved, but maybe that was the camera. :) Nice job Trent!!

  3. "Like the ink on the party!" "Ironically teacher Trent." Those are my favorites.

    So...I guess I should have written my note to you in cursive, now that I've seen this. And there I was taking my time writing in print!

  4. Enjoyed your sprightly account of becoming a Russian television star, but for whatever reason, can't view the video (and yes I have Flash Player)Also, wouldn't this have been translated via "" rather than in Chrome which is, to the best of my knowledge, just a browser?

  5. Uncle Da--er, Road Gecko:

    Chrome has a plugin which enables it to translate pages. I imagine that this is functionally identical to "," since Chrome is a Google product.

    I'm puzzled by the fact that you can't watch the video. Do you have Chrome? ; ) You can view it directly by clicking the link to the story.

    Nice to hear from you!