By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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declaration of independenceTalk about poetic justice.

With the advent of the internet, smart phones, texting, Twitter, and all other manners of electronic communication, I was barely keeping up. As a woman in life’s “middle ground,” it’s almost a given that I’m going to be behind–that the wonders of ever-advancing technology have made communication the province of the young.

Oh sure, I email, which is tantamount to sending smoke signals these days, if you ask anyone under the age of thirty. And yes, I text, tweet, Facebook, blah, blah, blah. But no matter how I try, there’s always something new (almost every three hours, it seems), that’s touted as the latest thing, and about which I am hopelessly ignorant. When I finally do get a handle on whatever “it” is, “it” is almost obsolete, a victim of the next newest technological wonder that can tell the world everything you want it to know instantaneously.

So, I’ve often felt like a babbling idiot as I watch young people tap away on their devices, communing with the world, playing games, detailing the minutiae of their lives, complete with photos to illustrate every occasion. Until, that is, I realized that maybe I’m not the dummy after all.

The revelation came like a lightening bolt, while I was standing in line ordering sandwiches at a Subway, of all places.

As my husband, Dave, and I stood waiting for our lunch, a young lady about seventeen stepped up to the counter.

“I’ll take…um…” she began, as she focused intently on the piece of paper she held in her hand. “Is it okay if I just give you this?” she asked, holding the paper out to the Subway worker.

“I can’t take it from you,” the woman behind the counter replied, “you can take your time and read it to me. No hurry.”

“Well, it’s just that I can’t read cursive,” the teen said.

I’ll give that a few minutes to sink in.

The kid couldn’t read the paper she clutched in her hand, even though she could likely pilot a jet with the phone she held in the other.

I think I gasped out loud. When did they stop teaching kids how to read and write in cursive? Yeah, I get that computers don’t type in script, but really? Think about the implications. It’s bad enough when someone at the office ends up getting turkey hoagie instead of a tuna on rye, but now an entire generation of kids can’t read THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

Talk about scary. Have you ever seen the show, Revolution? The premise revolves around a world wide blackout that cut electricity to the entire planet. All forms of electronic communication–wiped out when someone shut off the lights. Suddenly, a technological genius looks like a dope next to an old lady who knows how to plant a thriving garden.

So this newest form of the ignorance of youth is big news for we “old heads,” as we’re so unceremoniously labelled. We now have our own secret language, and we didn’t even know it. Next time some smug kid makes you feel like a dinosaur, just write them a derogatory note in cursive and say, “That’s English. Why don’t you try and read it?” as you pretend to know how to Tweet something on your smart phone while they figure it out.

Meanwhile, note to educators: teach cursive. After the winter of power outages we’ve just experienced, you never know when we’ll all have to pick up pen and paper again.

Besides, when I send a kid out to pick up lunch and I’ve ordered a  tuna on rye, I want a tuna on rye.

Do your kids/grandkids know how to read cursive? Click “comments” below and share!