Monday, May 14, 2018

The New Dark Ages

Last week I noticed an article that certain schools were starting to discontinued the use of "face" clocks in their classrooms, because some of their students could only interpret digital readouts. 

Sign of the times, I suppose.  But then I got to thinking about the arguments that are being had in some districts about the teaching of cursive writing at all, or the use of hand written calculations or formulas instead of calculators.

Again, a minor point - one would argue that if one can write in block letters one need not write in cursive.  But with the growth of typing as a medium, the same argument could be made - probably will be made - within my lifetime.

Such things are probably all within the the context of the timeline of civilization - after all, blacksmithing used to be the only way to get forged metal and leather working was the plastic manufacture of its day - but it also betrays an increasingly disturbing trend, at least to my way of thinking.  We used to put skills aside for technology; now we are putting aside the basic means of the transfer of knowledge.

One of the great advances from semi-permanent to permanent societies (besides that whole "farming" thing) was the development of the ability to maintain and understand knowledge in the form of records.  Suddenly a person did not have to remember everything; it could be record for posterity and recovered via reading it.

But we are moving backwards in this, it seems.  Oh, not visibly - after all, digital clocks do exist and people do still write.  But ask yourself:  where is the growth of knowledge now?  In means that are transferable without technology such as books, written records, and the like?  Or in visual and written forms that are completely reliant on technology to make them possible?  Which is all fine, of course - until the technology fails or is wrenched away.

In my nightmares, I see a society surrounded by knowledge but with the people unable to read or write to access it, screens of darkness with no letters on them and digital clocks that only ever show the time as blank even as the sun sinks into the evening.  A people starving for knowledge that is locked away as solidly as if it was behind iron bars and concrete walls.

There is a new Dark Age coming - maybe not quite yet, but coming fast.  I check the time on my hand winding, Roman numeral bearing watch.  The sunset is not yet, but will be here soon.


  1. So in the near future, us oldsters could use cursive writing as a secret code. :)

  2. Our time is coming, Reverend Paul. We need only be patient.

  3. Used to be that you could be judged by your penmanship. Sloppy writing was indicative of a sloppy mind, or so the old nickel went. And yet, some of history’s top scientists and academics were renowned for their horrible writing. Today some professionals seem to take pride in sloppy writing - doctors and engineers are the worst. There are times at work where I take solace in my writing and slow down, focus the mind, form the letters, and use writing as a form of stress relief.

  4. Glen, I firmly believe that in this age the act of writing by hand is as novel and rebellious as any other manual art in a word of technology. It is exactly what you say: my brain races ahead of my ability to write, which forces me to slow down; I have to take time to make things legible (always a challenge for me) instead of just hastening through. It is a very great form of stress relief cleverly disguised as a thing we once were taught.

    And penmanship really does reveal a great deal about a person. With keyboards, we lose that ability to instantly see into another's soul.


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