business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Fast Company reported yesterday that Eddie Bauer has changed its logo, moving from this:

To this:

The goose in the new graphic harkens back to the company's legacy - Eddie Bauer was the first to patent a goose down jacket in the US.

But according to new CEO Tim Bantle, the font used for the company's name was changed because of a desire to look less dated.  Besides, he said, "Kids don’t even learn to read cursive in school anymore.”

I don't care much about the logo change, but I'm outraged by the fact that for the most part, Bantle is accurate in his observation.

MNB happens to have an in-house expert on the subject - Mrs. Content Guy, who recently retired after a 20-year teaching career (her third career, after 1) working as a banker-stockbroker, and 2) staying home with our three kids.  She spent most of her teaching career as a third-grade teacher, which happens to be - in our district, at least, where they traditionally taught cursive.

She tells me that to some extent, it depends on the district - some require kids to learn cursive, and some don't.  She also told me - and I found this particularly interesting - that many kids actually find it harder to read cursive than to write it.  

(As with all things educational, it depends on the student.  Which actually goes back to a core insight that she had early in her teaching career, informed by the fact that we'd had three kids in the educational system.  "The most important thing is to teach the child, not the subject," she'd say, emphasizing that children learn differently and that good teachers have to be aware of these differences and even embrace them.  But I digress, which I tend to do when I'm bragging about Mrs. Content Guy.)

Being an education dilettante as opposed to an actual teacher, I have sort of an absolutist position on this.  I know that some folks think that there is little need for cursive writing because everybody learns to keyboard at an early age, but I'm waiting for the time to come when some school district decides that knowing how to print isn't important because everybody keyboards.

But then what happens when the electric grid goes down, or for whatever reason a person doesn't have access to the device on which they write.  Will they be lost, paralyzed by an inability to write anything down?  I fear so.

To the greatest extent possible, kids need to learn to both print and write in cursive, because by being able to do so, they'll be better able to read both print and cursive.  (They also need to learn how to write - as in, compose sentences and paragraphs that, in the words of Tom Stoppard, when you get the right words in the right order, "you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead."  But that's a different column.)

Thanks to Tim Bantle and Eddie Bauer for reminding us about this alarming, Eye-Opening loss of basic skills in our culture.