A startling revelation came to me last weekend. I have decided to return to school and complete my master’s degree (problematic since I started it so long ago I will have to repeat the entire program) here in Houston since, under the Hazelwood Act, it doesn’t cost me tuition or fees. I started getting all my ducks in a row several weeks ago to enroll in the Fall 11 semester. Huey was getting my transcripts order, Dewey was filing the paperwork for the Hazelwood act and Louie was scheduling the GRE. Donald and Uncle Scrooge McDuck are waiting for their turn. These tasks, however, were not the revelation to which I alluded earlier.
After finding out that getting my transcripts necessitated an unforeseen expense, I scheduled my GRE. The Graduate record examination is a mandated standardized test that graduate schools use to verify a candidate’s eligibility to the program. It seems you have to be smart enough to be taught and this test is the only way to ascertain that. Either that or someone simply figured out a way to drain another $160 out of prospective graduate students. But, no, I doubt that. Surely it must have a higher purpose. The test is designed by a company called ETS and administered by any number of testing sites across the country, including many universities. I scheduled mine at a place called Prometrics, a company that administers several kinds of exams besides the GRE. A nice young pregnant woman was there to take an HR manager’s test. I wanted to joke that she was getting a two-fer and that the baby should get certified too, but I refrained.
The GRE is a difficult test and there is a whole industry out there to help one study and prepare for the exam. This undoubtedly results in many people trying to cheat the system, so there are measures in place to maintain the integrity of the test. You cannot take anything into the testing station; no wallets, purses, jackets, calculators, PDAs or even watches. Also, in order to take the test, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This was not unexpected, but what did catch me off-guard was that I had to write the statement. In CURSIVE, no less.
I cannot speak for most people, but the only cursive I ever use is signing my name—and that barely counts as writing. It’s more of a squiggly line. I didn’t even write in cursive when I was in school. Printing was faster and—in my case at least—more legible. My handwriting is so bad that I took a laptop and portable printer to class in college for daily writing assignments. The teachers balked at first, but once they tried to read my chicken scratch, they all relented and even encouraged my laptop.
Sitting in the Prometrics lobby with the form, I read the small print and almost choked when I saw that I was expected to transcribe the entire paragraph in script. It actually specified that printing was not allowed. I looked around for any sign of Alan Funt or Ashton Kutcher or a hidden camera. Surely I was being Punk’d. But no, everyone else was focusing on their penmanship as they, too, tried to remember how to write. It took me quite a while to even remember how to form the letters in cursive. I could have typed a dissertation in the time it took me to render those letters—one paragraph—in some semblance of the English language. And my hand hurt. This was nothing short of torture.
I guess it is true that epiphanies and revelations are born out of hardship. We have gone from handwriting to thumb typing as a primary means of interpersonal communication. CBS Sunday Morning coincidently did a piece on the dying art of penmanship the very next day after my test. It seems that more and more people are forgetting the basics of letter writing and those that do, more are printing than using script. Calligraphy is the only script that seems to be maintaining any inertia and only because it is still considered an art form. I guess it is sad that more people don’t handwrite any more. I remember as a child my mother insisting that I and my siblings write a note to my Granny and Grandmother. We found some of those old letters last summer when we were cleaning out old drawers looking for picture. She had saved some of them as keepsakes of our childhood. My grandkids won’t have that. The best they will have to remember me is probably this blog and some digital pictures stored in a device that they won’t be able to access because it is too old and broken. Appropo I guess.
Does this mean I will take up pen and paper and strive to revive the dying art? Heck no. I hated handwriting then and I hate it now. This is why I have computers! Remember the motto: Print is dead. So is script. I do have a calligraphy pen set. Somewhere.