Cursive Should Be Abolished! Of Cops and Consequences Online Ignorance Must Stop!
The Most Toxic Site On Earth! CONTACT ME Political Common Sense!
Internet Pirates Go Down! The Internet Is A Lynch Mob! Here's A Middle Finger For You!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Boy On A Boat

A full moon. After a full day - but not complete. My son and I generally hang out late, pointing out satellites, watching for UFOs and talking about the moon. We bond with astrology, it seems. Together we have discussed things like meteors vs. meteorites, star dust and velocity. Together we went to a race in Hood River under a lunar eclipse. On that pre-dawn journey we discussed such things as primitive peoples and their perspectives, how the land was shaped, and Herman the Sturgeon at Bonneville.
Sunday marks the one-week anniversary of my son's "Great Alaskan Experience," at eighteen years of age. He purposely landed a "real job" designed to test him. Sometime soon, I hope to hear from him.
If you aren't familiar with the timelines of fishing in the Bering Sea, it goes something as follows:
Tanner was in Anchorage on Sunday, and was probably on the boat in Dutch Harbor by the end of Sunday. My best guess is that the boat would want to head back out within 24 to 36 hours after docking. They want to get back on the fish as soon as they can. Being docked and offloading isn't making money - it is only making room for more fish!
I would think that, at the very latest, they would be heading out by early Tuesday. This is only an educated guess, since maybe the new crew was the last thing they were waiting on, and out they went as soon as the crew came on. The depart window is from early Monday to early Tuesday, at the latest.
Then it takes a couple of days to find the fish, set the net, drag it and then haul it aboard. There can be up to 100 metric tons of fish in the net, and hauling it from the bottom of the ocean takes awhile. After the first net, processing begins, and will continue until the hold is full. The boat Tanner is on has a hold of probably over 100 metric tons. Depending on how good the fishing is, it can take from seven to ten days to fill it.
Once it is full, it takes a day or better to get back to Dutch. Then there is offloading, and it involves any able body at any time who are able to or who are required to be available to help.
Once the offload is finished, there may be some "town time" for the crew. Of course, there is also re-stocking of the ship store, food and general supplies, delivery of mail and packages, re-fueling and any ordered parts or machinery to consider during dock time, as well. Depending on the boat company, dock time can be two or three days, usually. It also depends on such conditions as weather, delays in shipments and crew arrivals and departures.
When you consider all of these factors, I would expect to hear from my son any time between Tuesday and Sunday. After this trip, it will be much easier to estimate his activity. For now, I have to hope that when he DOES have the available time, that it will be during regular human hours over here. Murphy and his ever-damned laws dictate that this will not be the case, and I will only know at the moment, when the time comes. Either way, to hear my son speak in my ear will be much needed, for both of us, I think.
Until then, I see that full moon. I smile with a sadness, and reflect on its presence when a boy is becoming a man in the Bering Sea. At home, the moon hangs dutifully bold in the sky. The same face looks at you all of your life as it follows its pattern through the sky. Occasionally it will perform stunning stellar displays, such as blocking out the entire sun, or turning blood red during its own, separate Lunar events. It is the flashlight of the sky, beaming as we beam back. A steady beacon of stoicism and stability.
On the Bering Sea, the moon is in motion. Depending on the vector of the boat, the moon can be dancing from side to side; port to starboard, to port, to starboard. From leg to leg - side to side. Other times Luna will be pogo-hopping, bottom to top; taunting and playful, as if performing. Big swells offer a more dramatic show, as a trough blocks the view, and a crest reveals it. Like a shutter - open, closed, open, closed; moon up, moon down, moon up, moon down; now you see me, now you don't. More often than not, however, the clouds obscure most of the clear views of the moon. In fact, it is a treat when the schedule works out on full-moon days.
Certainly this moving moon is something shared by mariners around the world, and can be considered a cultural touchstone for those who have shared the experience of living on the ocean.
I miss the kid, but I welcome the man. He has earned this respect.
As a father, I admire his grit. He is younger than I was when I went to Dutch Harbor (though not by much!), and he may be the youngest on the boat, which has a crew of 80 or so. When his options after graduating were, "Military, college or work," he chose work. At that point, he and I discussed what kind of jobs were available, and whether or not his future involved name tags and uniforms, "being his own boss," learning how to put together combos or some other type of job available to a young person with limited experience. He made it clear to me that he wasn't messing around, and that he wanted to jump into adulthood with both feet, right into the deep end - no floatie. It seems as if he literally has done just that!
When you read this, Son, know that I love and miss you! I am being selfish, of course, as many others love and miss you, too. Just know that when I see the moon from here, I also know how it looks from where you are. That is something we share, and something we both can be proud of. When you get back, and the moon is the faithful flashlight you have known all of your life, and your new reality is familiar, yet entirely different to you, I would like to hear your thoughts and plans. I am excited for your future, no matter what you come up with!
Take care Son, and just know that your Dad is there in spirit. Love ya.

is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups. He currently lives in the Tri-Cites, Washington where he works at a local high school, and is an independent tutor in his spare time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Got Bloggin' On My Noggin

It occurred to me that I have spent quite some time lately working on blogs. It feels like I have been doing this all of my life, although it has only been a couple of years. I didn't realize just how many blogs I have created. Following is a list of the most entertaining, for various reasons. There is something for everyone! Keep in mind that I also do my own artwork, sometimes on the covers of the books, sometimes on logos, sometimes as visual aids to my posts. I have created my own videos and all related material, except where otherwise noted. When I was very young, I began to write. Later, when I was a young man, I realized that in order to consider myself a serious writer, I should at least be able to write 100 pages. If I couldn't do that, then of course I couldn't consider myself to be much of a writer. So I wrote. Ray's Rules is an experiment that blends storytelling with modern channels, based on a classic model - pulp fiction. The idea of this serial is to offer quality, cheap drama on an ongoing basis. In this tale, young Ray finds himself knee-deep in Mafia, and his grit is his best weapon.
Are you familiar with Smashwords? It is a platform for self-pubbers to distribute their eBooks without some of the constraints of the bigger outlets. A unique feature I learned about was that whenever you update your eBook at Smashwords, customers are allowed to update their versions for free. This gave me the idea to create Life Bits and Other Chunks. Short stories mixed with humor, drama and insanity, this collection will continue to grow until my file is too big to upload with Smashwords. As time goes on, the price will rise. The solution? Buy early for the best deal.
The Blog of Ages blog site is my first of any note, and is what I refer to as "Stephen L. Wilson Headquarters." When I bemoan society, or observe something I feel needs to be shared, or when I am overcome by a fugue, the result usually winds up here. You will also find excerpts of my writing, interviews with authors who rock, and featured posts from my other blogs.
After a great run of tutoring at the end of this last school year, I realized that the work is a good fit for me. I find work through a company called WyzAnt. They organize my clients and help to promote my efforts. It was only natural for me to make a blog for tutoring!
One of the things I noticed when I first began self-publishing was the number of poorly edited works floating around like so many dead fish. I was new at this whole internet publishing stuff, and I was offended by the lack of effort by some authors. I felt that they were tainting the well, so I decided to make a blog featuring Indie authors with impeccable writing.
Remember December 21, 2012 and the Mayan calendar apocalypse predictions? This book is a take on the end of the world, why it didn't happen and where we are heading as a people. It is an alternative view at creation that is disturbingly precise in its description and evaluation of the meaning of our existence. It is also the very first book I ever edited, so it shares a place on my blog list. I designed and created the cover, learned how to create an eBook and crash-coursed in self-publishing with Destiny Unfulfilled.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Tasty Twist - Flash Fiction by Stephen L. Wilson

(Originally posted October 12, 2012)
This month I decided to enter a flash fiction contest. I have always wanted to, but with all of my other publishing ambitions, I just haven't had a chance until now. Thanks to Sharon Van Orman, who posted the "Halloween Flash Fiction Contest" on Facebook, I have an opportunity to have some fun in 1500 words or less. If you are interested, voting for the entries begins on Monday at 9 a.m. CST, and lasts until Wednesday at 9 a.m., CST. Please - no early voting! The entry number for my story is "B-17." To vote, simply enter a comment. Only one vote per person - duplicate votes will be rejected. The other entries are linked at the right of Sharon's page. Enjoy!
 "A Tasty Twist"
by Stephen L. Wilson
I was waking up. “Coming to” was more like it. My head throbbed, and my mouth was dry. What was that horrible smell? An organic, deathly permanent smell.
Where had I been? Memories were fragmented, flashing in my mind like bits of archaic newsreel. My lifelong friend, Jason, was taunting the old woman, laughing as he pushed her against the dumpster in the vacant alley.
“Who’s your daddy, Rumpelstiltskin?”
Rumpelstiltskin. That was the name given to the woman by the kids in the neighborhood. She moved, broken and bent, with a cane. She always wore that stained brown pea coat covered in cat hair, and a drab, yellowing scarf wrapping her ancient head. None of us remembered her ever speaking; only glowering at our hateful antics with cold, black eyes which pierced our very souls. Oh, we would laugh and taunt, but with a nervous fear to drive our actions. Usually Rumpelstiltskin would stay close to her home, which was a tiny shack of an A-frame, hiding in a jumbled, foreboding nest of overgrown shrubbery and a few tired trees with branches dangling precariously over the withered and dismal dwelling. On the few occasions when one of us would boldly approach her, she would skitter to her sanctuary with surprisingly quick movements, staring; staring back at us with those shiny eyes once she was in the safety of her surroundings.
Another memory flashed through my mind. Rumpelstiltskin, bouncing off of the dumpster, losing her balance. As she stumbled forward, she was unable to avoid a bar extending from the receptacle. Her head met the protrusion with a sickening crunch. As her body sagged and fell toward the Earth, her face held her up, as if in proud defiance. After a moment, it too gave up, and released her to the ground. She was moaning softly, making helpless motions with her legs. It was as if she was running in slow motion.
I looked at Jason, who was clearly shocked. I turned back to Rumpelstiltskin, noticing first those eyes. Wide and glossy; hurt and accusing, framed by the black paint now covering her face. As she writhed, and the moonlight captured her expression, I saw that it was actually blood, which was now pouring from a cavernous dent just above her eyebrows. For the first time, I heard her voice. It was raspy and crisp, like the clicking of a playing card in the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
“Tasty…flies! Tasty…flies!”
What the hell? Unless I was not hearing her right, that knock to the noggin must have been worse than I thought. Apparently it was, because no sooner had I thought this, than Rumpelstiltskin had expired. There was no need to check her pulse, or perform any type of test to prove it. Jason and I both just knew. Her legs had stopped pumping, and her black, glistening orbs remained open to the world, staring through us even in death. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swore I saw the reflection of both of us in those deep pools of ebony, framed by the crimson of her lifeblood.
Neither one of us spoke during the walk home. Jason was a specter, his face so white it was almost transparent. I couldn’t believe that we had just killed Rumpelstiltskin. I wondered what our fate would be, if the cops would know it was us, if I would ever live past this gruesome moment. When we walked up to my house, we looked at each other one last, grim time, and then I went inside. I quietly and slowly trudged upstairs to bed. Despite my experience, I fell asleep quickly. I must have been drained.
And now I am awake. Again, that smell. That putrid, unhealthy, rotting and eternal smell. For the first time I realize that I cannot move. I cannot open my eyes. My arms are pinned to my side; my legs bound together. Where am I? Am I in bed?
I am now alert and frantic. I feel like I am on some kind of trampoline. My body bobs in rhythm, as if to a slow, gentle imaginary beat. What is going on?
There is a guttural noise to my right. Is that Jason? I feel the trampoline quivering, and a louder, more distinct groaning sound. Yes, it is Jason, but he is not saying anything; only making loud, indistinct noises. At once the trampoline bounces wildly and I thought I was falling. As suddenly as it began, the bouncing settles, and once again I am bobbing to that imaginary beat. Still, that God-awful smell, so unfamiliar to me, permeates my senses.
I have to find a way to see what is going on. I realize that my face is covered with rope or gauze of some kind. Maybe there is some way to loosen it or at least peek around it. Even though my body is tightly bound, I discover that I can move my head a bit. Maybe I can work the rope loose enough to catch a glimpse of my surroundings.
As I writhe my head around in an attempt to free my vision, I hear crusty words being whispered. I can’t quite make out what they are saying, but my heart quickens, and I increase my movements. The trampoline jerks suddenly, and I hear a crunching sound. Jason gurgles an unintelligible scream, which quickly fades to silence. Not exactly silence. His desperate wail is replaced with a steady slurping, which sounds like Jell-o being sucked through a straw. I close my eyes tight and increase my efforts to break free, my head now a wild, whiplashing metronome, moving to the frantic beat of an internal Danse Macabre.
After a moment I lay still, my body gently bobbing on the trampoline. The ghastly slurping sounds have stopped. I open my eyes, and find that my efforts have paid off. The rope has slipped somewhat, and I see a couple of pinhole lights, which are stars in the black sky. I roll my eyes to the right, and see a long, tubular bar with rows of hairy protrusions. Before I can process this information, the trampoline bounces viciously again, and my eyes slam shut in reflex.
The bouncing gently settles into the now familiar pattern of bobbing in time to a slow, silent waltz.
“One-two-three. One-two-three.”
I open my eyes. Directly in front of me are two long, yellow, pointed shafts, about a foot apart. As I focus, I look to the top of the shafts. I see what appears to be dozens of hemispheres in a variety of sizes, each one neatly imitating the next, arrayed in geometrical rows. They look hauntingly familiar. Then I hear the raspy, creaking whisper:
“Tasty…flies. Tasty…flies.”
I don’t know if my scream was audible. I just know I shrieked with my psyche and every fiber of my being as the fangs plunged into my chest. My fear became agony as I realized that the crunch I heard was my ribs breaking and shattering. I could feel the pain and pressure as Rumpelstiltskin withdrew my internal juices with her strong vacuum. The newly familiar slurping sound was all I could hear. As the life faded from my body, my last sight was the visible dent above those rows of eyes. Those probing, knowing, glassy eyes, shrouded by the smell of eternal death.

Stephen L. Wilson
Indie Author/Publisher
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Elephant's Foot - The most toxic place on Earth

Photo courtesy of
The Elephant’s Foot is possibly the most dangerous chunk of refuse in the world. It isn't very big, just a couple of meters in diameter. However, it is dense, with a weight of several tons. It is made of a substance called "corium," which is named for the result of a radioactive slurry that is created when a nuclear reactor core melts down. In this case, the Elephant's Foot corium is in a room within the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia. When the plant "melted down" in April of 1986, the heat of the radioactive material rose to around 2,255 degrees Celsius (Over 4,000 degrees Farenheit). The intense heat literally melted the cement and sand within the plant to create a type of lava.
Due to the isotopic instability of corium, it changes over time, in specific phases. Some of the lava in the reactor is a specific mix of zirconium, silicate and radioactive uranium. This phase of the lava is known as "Chernobylite," and contains up to ten percent solid uranium.
The Chernobyl accident contained five different types of corium - Black Ceramic, Brown Ceramic, Slag-like Granulated, Pumice and Metal. In the case of the Elephant's Foot, the mix is classified as "black ceramic" corium.
As the lava emits heat and comes in contact with other substances throughout its long decay process, it continues to morph and change. Eventually, as the lava melts through the bottom of the nuclear plant, it will transform into a heavy metal. This will take tens of thousands of years, and if the blob comes in contact with water, an explosion or water table contamination is likely to result. Corium is "technogenic," meaning it is a man-made material.
Even though the Elephant's Foot becomes less lethal as time goes on, the intensity of the radiation will be toxic for some time to come. When the blob was discovered months after the catastrophe, it was still plenty hot. The black ceramic corium glowed in the dark, and any contact could kill a person within minutes. If a person spent five minutes within ten feet of the mass, they had no hope of living longer than 48 hours.

Initial toxicity at time of discovery (6 months after melt down):
300 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = 2 days to live
240 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = immediate vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Death to follow.

Current toxicity (Ten percent of initial toxicity): 
Just over an hour of exposure, w/in 10 feet = a lethal dose.

If you want to see some awesome Elephant's Foot videos, HERE YA GO!

Stephen L. Wilson is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cursive Writing: It Is Time For A Different Approach


Many school districts are burdened with dwindling budgets and increasing class sizes. Resources are at a premium, and the teaching institution itself is at a crossroads of old and new. Common Core and new ideologies seem to be at odds with traditional and time-honored classroom practices. While this dynamic arena of educational tug-of-war plays out, best practices bloom unexpectedly in these times of directional discord. 

School districts all around the country have been making decisions which address the dilemma of resource management. In local school districts there has been a reduction in, and in some cases a complete removal of, such traditional classes as physical education, music, art, science and health. In light of this, it stands to reason that a practical approach is taken as we tighten our collective belts and ride out these transitional times. It is interesting to me that we don’t do what is sensible, for example, and discontinue the required learning of traditional “looped” cursive writing in primary school.

While researching this topic, many of the objections to this view that were raised in comments, and sometimes in the actual articles, were of an emotional nature. “How will people read the Constitution?” “What about being able to read Grandma’s letters?” and “Cursive will become a dead language” are some examples. However, some of the objections seemed to be very scientific or factual in nature. “What about those improved SAT scores?” “What about increased neural pathways in the brain?” “What about the benefits of cursive writing for people with dyslexia?” The arguments are passionate and sincere. But are they valid? Should school districts utilize valuable time and resources to teach primary school students how to write in cursive?



Be careful when you read or participate in debates about cursive. What I have discovered is that a strong majority of blogs and articles do not discuss cursive exclusively. In fact, nearly all of the blogs and articles I examined, including studies and research findings, relied upon lumping cursive with italic cursive, or handwriting in general in order to have a report of substance. If not for this addition of similar but not relative data, there would be a woeful lack of information available by which to frame an argument.

It is important to make the distinction between Palmer Method, or “looped” cursive, italic cursive and printed text. I advocate the hand-eye coordination which is so crucially required in early learning by promoting the use of printed text or italic cursive instead of looped cursive. Palmer Method is what we all learned and know as “traditional,” or “looped” cursive. Printed text is what we all learned and know as the first alphabet we learned how to write. Italic cursive is a modern derivative of italic script, which is also known as chancery cursive. This modern version of italic cursive was created by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay in 1976, and is known as the Getty-Dubay style.

I would like to emphasize that I am not against teaching handwriting in the form of printed text or italic cursive. Studies show that the kinesthetic involvement required of handwriting in general has a tremendous effect on learning development at an early age[1], and printed text makes sense to know and understand. After all, think for a moment how many written communications around you are in printed text. Newspapers, books, internet articles. Everything, right? Now consider what, other than a signature, is actually written in looped cursive. What important documents that you have are written in cursive? Your house deed? Car title? Insurance policy? Any contract? In fact, think of how many legal documents and applications actually tell you to “please print.”

Italic cursive, although seemingly obscure in educational systems, shows promise as the emerging best practice anyway[2]. Because many students struggle at an early age to learn looped cursive, italic cursive may be a natural alternative. The first learned alphabet is printed text. Italic cursive resembles that style more than looped cursive. The transition to italic cursive is more natural than looped cursive, and provides a more familiar framework by which to learn. This is a prime example of Lev Vygotsky’s scaffolding method. Vygotsky and the scaffolding method are required study for teachers, and Vygotsky is recognized as a fundamental influence regarding modern education practices.

It is extremely important that students continue to practice the printing of numbers and upper- and lower-case letters, as this activity not only increases a student’s ability to learn, it creates neural pathways in the brain[3]. It is also important to note that any fine motor skill and problem solving activity has an impact on neural pathway development. There is no dependable study that shows any appreciable difference in mental ability when cursive writing is studied exclusively.

In other words, the fine motor skills required when you learn to tie your shoes will create neural pathways in the brain. These pathways will be different from those created by learning cursive writing, playing video games, or following a flying bird with your eyes. Are any of those pathways any more significant than any of the others? This is something that studies do not yet show, and therefore should not be considered as any kind of credible indication otherwise.

An option is to replace cursive writing with technology study altogether. By not presenting looped or italic cursive in the formative years, the students may then have an opportunity to learn something more immediately useful, like typing by touch, internet research or computer programming languages. As long as they are already familiar with printed text, the students are able to communicate and read. This is a great starting point for the interjection of technological learning.



There is the argument that the fine art of cursive writing will be lost forever if we discontinue its use in the early grades. The resulting knee-jerk concern has created a wave of sympathy for how important it is to know how to read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or grandma’s letters, for the sake of tradition and heritage. The outcry has been that only specialists will be able to read our most important historic documents, and that our society shall henceforth reject cursive permanently.

Some of the more dramatic arguments include the notion that cursive will go the way of hieroglyphics or Latin, to be used by the public nevermore. However, like Latin or hieroglyphics, cursive of any kind may be an acquired taste, when it comes to writing, much like calligraphy. For this reason, writing cursive is not necessary so early in the formative educational years. Like Latin or hieroglyphics, people will always be there to preserve the heritage of cursive for the sake of human interest. Having said that, learning to write in looped cursive has nothing to do with reading the Declaration of Independence. In fact, people who never learn to write looped cursive can still easily master the ability to read it.

Learning to write cursive and learning to read cursive are separate matters. Reading archaic cursive does not require that a person know how to write it. It takes less than a day to learn to read cursive with ease. It takes years to learn how to write it properly[4].

With this in mind, granny will appreciate the effort taken to spend a day learning how to read cursive. As for the Constitution of the United States of America or the Declaration of Independence, they aren’t even written in modern cursive. As elaborate as the writing is on those documents, I doubt if half of the people who write in cursive these days can even read either of those historical documents in full!

As you contemplate the need for looped cursive writing, I ask you this - Which is easier to read, most people’s printed text or most people’s cursive? These days it is acceptable to write in an amalgamation of both printing and cursive for most adults, which leads to a vast array of writing styles.  With no continuity or standard, the variety of styles creates a situation where sloppy and unreadable cursive is more the rule than the exception.

While it is stated by many that looped cursive is faster to write than printing, if it isn’t legible then it is worthless as a communication tool. Besides, studies have shown that italic cursive is more legible and faster than either printed text or looped cursive, so if the argument is for the most efficient type of writing, looped cursive isn’t it anyway[5].

Another misconception is that we need to learn cursive so that we can sign important legal documents. The truth is that our signature can be whatever we want it to be[5]. You may scrawl your full name in elegant flowing letters. You may use your first initials and last name, printed in block script. Or you may do as one of my borrowers did once, when I was a loan processor. On every document that required his signature (over a dozen documents) it was consistent and unique. It looked like he doodled within the same square inch for about thirty seconds. The result was a signature that roughly resembled a jumbled sunflower. My borrower’s signature was as valid as if he had signed with only an “X.” If you are still skeptical, ask any attorney.



As previously mentioned, writing in cursive has been proven to create neural pathways differently than other means of fine motor skills combined with problem solving or similar activity. This process is a natural one for humans. We create neural pathways every day. It is misleading when much attention is placed on this isolated but common physiological process. Yes, this particular neural pathway (looped cursive) will not be created when students are young. This is insignificant in the bigger picture, when other repetitive and focused activities create neural pathways as well. A stronger argument is that those pathways need to be built with the knowledge of modern technology, or even with a more efficient type of writing, such as italic cursive.

The argument here is not that our young students are missing out by not creating looped cursive neural pathways in their brains. The argument should be more along the lines of how the development of these pathways are constructed. If there is a possibility to influence this learning, shouldn’t it be utilized efficiently and effectively? Don’t we owe it to our future generations to offer them the best chance to compete globally? There simply is not any credible evidence to support the notion that the pathways created by looped cursive writing are any more or less important than pathways created by other means. As a result, it is better safe than sorry to teach young minds more about computers and the internet, or science,  money handling or any other number of related, relevant subjects instead of looped cursive.

Many of the researched articles pointed toward a 2006 study showing that students who learn looped cursive early perform better on their SAT tests[6]. None of the articles provided specific numbers, so I looked into it a bit closer. As it turns out, the difference is insignificant. On a twelve point scale, the average writing score of those who did not use cursive was 7.0. The average writing score of those who did use cursive was - get this - a whopping 7.2 out of 12! Neither score should be considered optimal. When you create a percentage using the scores, the looped cursive students performed at a 60% level, and the non-cursive students performed at a 58% level.

In addition, the same report states that only fifteen percent of the students used looped cursive to answer the written portion of their SAT test. This means that the sample of students who did not use cursive was more than five and-a-half times larger than the student sample of those who used cursive. This evidence is skewed, and would not be considered valid or fair by any measure. If a person has to dig this deep to find evidence that cursive should remain in the curriculum, then they really don’t have a good case. To tout this study as hard evidence is shameful.

There is some evidence that looped cursive can be helpful for those with dyslexia and other reading disorders, such as dysgraphia[7]. Studies have shown a valid relationship between writing cursive and improved writing skills in certain groups of people who otherwise have trouble reading. The connectivity of the letters apparently forces the student to continue to the next letter without having to interrupt their stroke to do so. In this way, looped cursive writing has been shown to improve the skills of those with certain delayed reading abilities.

There are a few commonly referenced sources that proponents of looped cursive use in their arguments. In addition to the SAT fallacy, two studies are leaned upon as significantly worthy sources. The first is a 2012 University of Indiana study, conducted by psychologist Karin James, supposedly demonstrating enhanced mental skills after learning looped cursive. However, further research shows that the only mental skill tested was a specific type of memory. Due to the preliminary and untested nature of the study, any results must be taken as not definitive or useful for serious discussion.

Another study often cited is a University of Washington work by psychologist Virginia Berninger that describes the results of handwriting as opposed to printing and keyboarding.  The study is often referred to as solid evidence that cursive creates unique pathways in the brain. While this is true, what is left out is that there are also unique pathways for keyboarding and printing. This study offers no comparison among the three techniques regarding effectiveness in learning. Again, a source with only the flimsiest attachment to the topic, and indicative of sloppy or deceptive research.

In addition to cherry picking information, many of the articles I came across were op-ed pieces. As you do your own research, be extremely careful that the studies and sources are referencing looped cursive, and not handwriting in general. If you are reading the articles critically then you will notice that if you go through an article and take out any information not related specifically to looped cursive there will be little or nothing left as evidence. You may also notice that I use some of the very same sources as some of looped cursive’s supporters. This is to show that the articles have value when used appropriately, and the information isn’t grossly skewed.



School administrators and educators continue to struggle with smaller budgets and changing academic platforms. They are burdened with the task of categorizing budgetary priorities. Many communities are feeling the pinch of this dilemma. Sometimes teachers are scapegoats, and the public turns on them, blaming educators for failing to know how to teach cursive in school. The issue today is NOT that the teachers don't use the proper technique. The issues today are that classrooms are larger, technology is moving along at a rapid clip, and teachers are under-resourced.

Meanwhile, new criteria and standards have cropped up. Common Core is the rallying cry of the day, and there is no mention of cursive writing in the instructions[8]. In fact, the Common Core uses keyboarding ability to measure and benchmark the student standards. Handwriting or cursive is never mentioned. The guidelines require mastery in various stages of written communication throughout school. Priority is the emphasis on the ability to communicate effectively with a keyboard. Families and communities face an important learning curve as our students crave and demand a chance to compete on a global scale. This will only happen if the next generations of students are allowed to keep up with the torrential shifts in technology, including keyboarding as a tool, functional for any phase of internet communication. The sooner we instill this knowledge in our youth, the sooner they will be ready to legitimately compete on a global scale. 

Comparatively, cursive does not even compete as a tool for communication. Could you imagine having a race between how many people you can reach with cursive compared to the keyboard and internet? The technology learning path is certainly important enough to begin instruction as early as possible.

If this means the displacement of looped cursive, so be it. My contention is NOT that we simply replace cursive with keyboards. More to the point, once a student learns printing and penmanship, or even italic cursive, then there is no need for looped cursive until later, as an elective. It makes more sense at the earliest point in time to gear the student to be competitive in the real world with technology skills. The brings me to my first offered solution:

- Students can take cursive with calligraphy as an elective in high school or college

-An efficient creative writing class could incorporate cursive as a requisite for completion.
This drama about losing the ability to read or write looped cursive as a culture is silly. Those who value cursive will continue to learn it. Those who don't will not be burdened with it. Both of those people can become well-versed in computers and internet and they will be on an even keel with others in the world. 

- Develop cursive as a learning tool for those with reading disabilities

If a method has a purpose, by all means put it to use. In this case, if looped cursive is helpful for those with dyslexia, it needs to be an active part of treatment for afflicted students. In a world where there is an ever greater need for methods to help those with disabilities, it only makes sense to look toward cursive and any other type of breakthrough that may ease the burden for the students.

- Use italic cursive

The fastest and most accurate way known to write is italic cursive. This is a hybrid of printed text, italicized and connected.  Studies show that this method not only produces the best results when testing for legibility, it also allows the student to process information quicker than with cursive or printed manuscript.

- Enroll your student in additional summer classes or hire a tutor

It is beneficial for students to exercise their academic minds as much as possible over the summer. Looped cursive and calligraphy are good ways to work this into an otherwise casual schedule. Even if the student is as old as middle or high school, they will certainly benefit from learning cursive, and using it as a tool for exercising their learning potential. Look for classes or workshops through your local clubs and organizations. This is also a good time to hire a tutor once a week to provide exercises and lessons for the student as they develop their cursive skills. 

- Do it yourself

The quote I used to open this article provides the best advice. I know we all have busy schedules, but so do teachers. Their job is to prepare our young people for the world ahead of them. This means that teachers must conform their busy schedules around the most pressing priorities. This results in teachers adapting the curriculum to involve as much technology as possible. If your concern is that little Johnny or Susie cannot read the Constitution or grandma’s letters, take the time one day to teach them to read looped cursive. If they already know the alphabet in printed manuscript then they will be able to quickly learn how to read in cursive. Even if you don’t have the time to teach them how to write in cursive, at least your fears about them being illiterate in looped cursive will be put to rest.

I am still searching, but I have found very little factual information to justify clinging to an archaic tradition when printed text is perfectly acceptable and easier to read. Feeling sad about losing a tradition is not a reason to continue to use valuable resources, which are in high demand and short supply, to teach a topic that has little use in the competitive real world. It is time to let go of looped cursive as an early academic tool. I would also question anyone who is a strong supporter for keeping it around. After researching the topic, it is clear to me that anyone who is an advocate for looped cursive preservation either has not researched the topic very well, they are purposely deceiving you for some reason, or they are simply ignorant and wanting to cling to tradition.

For me, the debate surrounding teaching cursive writing as a required course, especially in these turbulent educational times boils down to this:

Unless there is a valid, logical, advantageous reason to keep cursive, then there is no valid, logical, advantageous reason to keep cursive. 
[1] - Konnikova, Maria. “What’s Lost As Handwriting Fades?” (2014)
[2] Phillips, Jason. Dundas Valley Montessori School. “To Write Or Not To Write: Teaching Cursive In Montessori.” (2014)
 [3] - Pub Med. “Early Development Of Language By Hand: Composing, Reading, Listening, And Speaking Connections; Three Letter-Writing Modes; And Fast Mapping In Spelling.” Abstract. (2006)
[4] - Long, Cindy. “Does Cursive Need To Be Taught In The Digital Age?” (2013). Quoted by Kate Gladstone, handwriting expert and educator.
[5] - Dubay, Inga and Getty, Barbara. “Yes, It's Time To Stop One Form Of Cursive Writing, Even Some Cursive Experts Agree.” (2011).
[6] - College Board. “College Board Announces Scores For New SAT With Writing Section.” (2006).
[7] - Wydell, Taeko N. “Dyslexia - A Comprehensive And International Approach.” Montgomery, Diane. Chapter 7 - “The Contribution Of Handwriting And Spelling Remediation To Overcoming Dyslexia.” p. 128 (2012)
[8] - Common Core website. “English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Introduction.” (2014).

Stephen L. Wilson
Tutor and Indie Author/Publisher

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Words On A Screen

I am tired of people who read words on a screen, then make huge assumptions based on this tiny amount of info. How about you?

A common study once determined that human communication is only 7% textual, and that the remaining 93% is made up of body language, facial expressions, gestures, voice tone and inflection and other non-verbal communication. When people are online, using keyboards to put words on a screen, they are relying on an underused 7% of communication skills to relay 100% of their message. People either do not realize this, or they choose to ignore it. Some people who communicate in chat rooms, comments, or on social media insist on taking a fraction of a persons persona that is no more than words on a screen and make tremendous assumptions about the sender.
See, the sender of information has a specific, intended meaning in mind when they go through the effort to communicate with another human . The sender communicates a message, and it is received. The receiver then has the responsibility to reasonably decode the message. Again, it is unwise for the receiver to assume that what they interpret is exactly 100% of the intended message. 

In some cases, the norm appears to be that receivers are perfectly willing to decide that the way they interpret the information is exactly the only way the sender could have meant the message. This is a problem if the receiver chooses to accept the message in a negative way without asking the sender questions, or at the very least realize that the first assumption they make PROBABLY isn't the correct, intended message. If the receiver feels threatened by the information, at times they will lash and bash, and begin a vitriolic attack on the sender.
There are many reasons why people feel emboldened to take their 7% and display themselves as ignorant, hateful miscreants, but the bottom line is that communication receivers routinely:

  1. Make assumptions about the sender's information based on their own narrow personal frame of reference
  2. Refuse to ask the sender for more information
  3. Decide that what they assumed is the only way the information may be taken
Any of these choices only serve to make the receiver a fool. After all, do you ever just walk into a room, hear a bit of a conversation, and then assume the rest about a person based on this minimal amount of information? Is this a smart way to communicate? Does this make sense to you? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
The next time you have the urge to take 7% of weak, underused communication skills and make narrow, small-minded assumptions, and then decide that a person is 100% of what tiny information you have gathered, then just realize this - when you belittle, name-call, insult without cause, or otherwise expose your own ignorance, YOU are the one allowing words on a screen to bother you. Instead of taking the time to either:
  1. Make other assumptions (it is the least you can do)
  2. Offer an intelligent counter viewpoint
  3. Simply ask the sender of their intent
If your response is to jump on the sender after making your own assumptions, then you are a fool. Yes, you. Quit doing this. You pollute an otherwise intelligent conversation, and waste collective time. If you have questions, or a differing viewpoint, certainly offer it. If you, however, take 7% and make it 100%, you lose. Not 'loose', 'lose'. You lose when you are a fool, and others think to themselves, "That person has issues. They let words on a screen get to them." Of course, that isn't all we think.
I realize that the nonverbal to textual study that is referenced is a bit dated, and that it represents a small sample, but here's something you need to know. More and more studies show that nonverbal to textual ratio may be more like 75% to 25%. This means that 25% is just as insignificant as 7%, since humans still rely on nonverbal communication three times more than textual communication.
Ancient Roman philosopher Epictetus is quoted as saying, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." This may work with non-textual speech, but I contend that in modern times, the saying is closer to "We have two eyes and ten fingers so that we may gossip five times more than we observe." Combined with anonymity, this approach can lead to a quick  downward spiral which usually ends threads in any number of undignified ways. However, you aren't as anonymous as you think.
Now you are informed. There are no excuses. Only you have the power to understand the knowledge contained in this video. Only you have the power to put it to use. Now that you are aware, you have no reason to not act civil, decent and intelligent as you communicate on the internet. Hopefully you are mature enough to put this all together, and help out the rest of us.
Thank you.
Stephen L. Wilson
Tutor and Indie Author/Publisher
Steve dot TheTutor
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