Pen is mightier than email

In every legislatives session there is one bill that is not earth-shattering in its importance, but seems to grab the emotions of lawmakers, like burly dockworkers adopting a stray kitten. This year it is a proposal by Rep. Linden Bateman, Republican of Idaho Falls, to require Idaho schools to teach cursive handwriting.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Idaho House of Representatives passed the bill 68-2. Proponents of the bill say it teaches young students fine motor skills, and gives them a lifelong form of communication that is not electricity based.

The bill is currently working its way through the Idaho Senate.

Arguing the logistical benefits seems shallow. There are other good reasons for having good handwriting beyond the mechanical. There will always be a job or credit application that has to be filled out by hand. There are always going to be times when handwriting represents a personal touch. It means the sender took the time to write a thank you or offer their condolences. Grandma doesn’t have an email account but she understands what it takes to write a thank you note.

Rep. Holli High Woodings, Democrat from Boise, was one of the two that voted against the bill. She told the Idaho Statesman she voted against the proposal because she did not want to add more mandates to teachers’ schedules.

I can appreciate Woodings position. We are constantly adding to the list of requirements of our teachers. I also believe there are things young people should learn that don’t fall under the big three (math, science and technology).

I don’t think of myself as an alarmist, but the world does seem a lot more isolated than ever before. We sit in rooms full of people hiding behind screens.

Aside from learning to use a pen there are other things everyone should learn just for the sake of making life in society better for everyone and easier for them personally. These are just a few that should be taught early, and taught often.

Bait a hook. We can continue to have the debate over hunting, but with a few exceptions you can release a fish. Baiting a hook, and catching a fish teaches self reliance, personal accomplishment, patience and it brings a person in touch with natural wonders in their backyard. Your daughter may think it is gross, but she may have a son some day.

Get dirty. We are a healthier and sicker people than our predecessors. If you compare the competing medical studies we are living longer but getting sick more frequently. Having greasy hands and feeling the squish of mud between toes is again a connection to nature and it gives your immune system a workout. Yes this means another load of laundry and probably a torn knee in a pair of jeans, but letting the kids get dirty may save a few missed days of school later in the year.

Wash your hands. Getting dirty is important, but so is getting clean. According to the American Society of Microbiology, a 2006 study showed 97 percent of adult females and 92 percent of adult males said they wash their hands after using the restroom. Truth is, of those surveyed 75 percent of females and 58 percent of males actually washed their hands. In the same study 50 percent of middle and high school students surveyed said they washed their hands. The truth: 38 percent of females and only eight percent of the males actually washed their hands. We know hand washing is important to controlling the spread of disease, but it is also important to make people comfortable with the next item.

Shake hands. Teach your children how to properly shake hands with another person, and introduce themselves. I have had moments of shyness, It is a horrible feeling. However, there will come a time, even in our email, text and Twitter laden world when we all have to stand in front of an actual person, introduce ourselves and ask for something. This could be a job, a loan, or just a friendship. The first hurdle to any social situation is the introduction. A good hand shake says a lot about a person. A proper hand shake and look in the eye with a “nice to meet you I am…” conveys confidence, and opens the dialogue pleasantly.

The four most important phrases in the English language. In a world of sound bites, catch phrases, tag lines and buzz words there are four phrases that will pave the way to success better than any college degree. They are: please, thank you, Ma’am and Sir. We can almost universally recognize these as signs of politeness. Just as important as teaching the words, is teaching frequency. While there is a point when please can be used so many times it becomes begging, I have never found or experienced a case where there is too much respect. If you are one of those people who maintain Sir or Ma’am makes you feel old, does being respected make you feel old too?

Hold a door. Speaking of respect, holding a door for another person is about being respectful and polite to other human life in your vicinity. This isn’t a sexist issue. Young able bodied people should hold the door for anyone going through the door at the same time. Common courtesy should be common.

Pin a corsage. Young men should learn this trick before their first date. The best way to practice this skill is with your mother. Mother’s Day, birthday, parent’s anniversary, just because, are all great reasons to buy a flower for your mother and it will save you the embarrassment of stabbing your prom date.

Tie a tie. Really this should be called dress up, but tying a tie is the hardest part to learn. I know clip-on and zip-up ties are easy; they are also obvious. These easy solutions give the impression you like to take the easy way out. Taking the easy way out may be okay for your second cousin’s wedding, or a six year old in Sunday school, but an employer doesn’t like the idea of taking the easy way out as much. There are two knots for tie tying you should know, the Windsor and the Double Windsor. Google them, the internet will show you how. Ladies, just in case, learn how to tie these knots backward.

Accept defeat. Despite current trends there are winners and there are losers in the adult world. It is a horrible feeling to lose. Never learn to be comfortable with, or like losing, but know sometimes you will lose. Learn to cope with defeat without the sour grapes. This will impress the people who see you lose; it will also make you a healthier person. Learning to make lemonade is tough but essential.

Win graciously. Losing is not a good thing, no one ever really sets out to lose, but being insufferable in victory is even less seemly than being a sore loser. Those who lose are usually quite aware they have lost, rubbing it in their face after the fact serves no purpose other than to alienate people. Little league athletics is the perfect place to teach this skill. Nobody has ever had a trophy taken away for saying “good game”, but it is amazing how many relationships are formed when a winner truly means it.

My apologies to the educators of Idaho for suggesting we add to your work load, but I support Rep. Bateman. Teaching cursive is a good first step in providing Idaho students with a foundation for success. Math, science and technology are important, but we cannot forget the first 12 years of education is also about teaching people to function effectively in a polite society.

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