It’s not right to want others to believe wrong thoughts, is it?

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

The new San Francisco school board president has dispensed with the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of board meetings and has substituted the new tradition of reading from Maya Angelou. This reminded Travis Corcoran (The Powers of the Earth) of The Children’s Story, by James Clavell:

That’s the one where the US loses a war and the “new teacher” helps the children cut up the American flag so they can each have pieces as a “new tradition”.

You can find the full text of the story easily enough, and it’s a quick, breezy read.

The story of how it came to be is almost as interesting as the story itself:

Children's Story 1
Children's Story 2
Children's Story 3

There’s also a short movie version:


  1. Chris C. says:

    How will children in the many schools that no longer teach cursive be able to read this? For that matter, the font is so bad that I found it tedious to read.

  2. Candide III says:

    Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies


  3. CVLR says:

    I write exclusively in nigh-illegible cursive and even I found this to be mildly headache-inducing.

  4. Wang Wei Lin says:

    “The new San Francisco school board president has dispensed with the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of board meetings…”

    Liberalism is the Democrat way to say America and Americans suck while maintaining a patina of legitimacy.

  5. Harry Jones says:

    Too cursive, didn’t read.

    Here is an example of where things that once made sense become disconnected from their former reasons for existence and then fossilized as traditions. Back before computers, writing cursive was efficient (although shorthand was better.) Back before typewriters and shorthand, cursive was something everyone needed.

    But those days are long gone. Why is cursive still around?

    Meanwhile, things that actually still work are opposed with an irrational hatred because these things trigger the stupid.

  6. Graham says:

    Interesting. I always had only middling cursive and worse if I had to write more than a short note.

    But I’m clearly attached to it.

    I went to high school in the 80s and university class of 94. In high school all written work was cursive until in last year they required typed. My dad produced an old portable manual with keys so tight I can’t believe anyone ever did more than one peck at a time with it. Serviceable.

    For university I got a printer for my old Apple IIe. These things were costly then. All essays done this way. Every so often I ask younger people how their exams were written- we would have had no choice for that but to sit in cold gyms with ruled notebooks and a stack of pens and end with blue sheened, pained hands. Some students who graduated as recently as a few years ago still reported this experience but for some the mass sit down exam seems to be fading away, perhaps as it remains difficult to replicate that experience and avoid cheating while allowing for technology. I am curious how that form of testing will evolve, or if it will.

    During all that time, I was so used to longhand and to thinking that way, that I wrote every paper first draft in longhand, editing along the way, with scratches and added sections on the back and arrows all over the place. Then did the edits as I typed it in. It took me years into the workplace before I could start on screen and do primary edits without a longhand copy.

    Now I still use it for all sorts of notes to self and schedules, but I’ve found myself printing when manually editing someone else’s hard copy. I never thought I would print so much. Still, it’s marginally slower than if I used cursive, it’s just that I expect most people will read it more easily if printed.

  7. Kudzu Bob says:

    Why is cursive still around?

    Ah, you must be a utilitarian. No doubt you’ll be pleased as punch to know that many young people already are unable not only to write cursive handwriting but to read it as well.

    In another generation or two, scholars won’t be able to read old documents and manuscripts hidden away in libraries and archives, so they won’t bother to look for any. Families will throw out old letters and diaries written by their great-great grandparents, since such things will be as incomprehensible to them as Cretan Linear A is to us. People won’t be able to sign their names, just make their mark, like digital serfs in a high-tech dark age.

    Thanks to practical people such as you, we will be even more estranged from the past than we are now.

    Would that the estimable James Clavell had written a tale warning us what sort of a world utilitarianism inevitably brings about.

  8. Graham says:

    It is already years since The Simpsons took this up. Bart is mysteriously reassigned to a gifted school and when the teacher writes something in cursive on the board, he squints and struggles to shape his voice around unfamiliar symbols.

    Teacher: “So, you never learned cursive?”

    Bart: “Well, I know hell, and damn…”

  9. Graham says:

    I actually wish I could read one or more of the script versions that predate modern cursive with any accuracy. Even apart from the changing language, script from the 17th century or before can be a challenge.

    Sad to think my own chicken scratches from the 1980s-1990s will soon be to the next generation as documents dug up from the chancery of Henry VII might be to me. Or like the mysterious paper found by the priests at the beginning of “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” They have no idea it is a grocery list itemizing such things as “can of kraut”.

    One day some professor will be elucidating on notes dug out of my apartment and incanting the unknown phonemes of the horrid Scrolls of Graham.

    Actually, that’s pretty cool. Scratch my complaints. Let the future rot as long as my name is associated with mysterious lost words that no one knows is mundane crap. Who wouldn’t want to be the focus of a cosmic joke?

Leave a Reply