There’s a really campy movie that was produced in 1956. Based upon the 1954 novel by William March, The Bad Seed was also produced as a play. I’ve read both the novel and the play, and I've seen the movie two or three times. Knowing the plot line has never ruined it for me, but if you think it will do that for you, consider this your spoiler alert.
The “bad seed” exists within -- and becomes an appropriate moniker for -- Rhoda Penmark, the story's pivotal character. Although Rhoda behaves like a lovely little girl much of the time, her mean streak is also pretty obvious. As it turns out, she inherited a homicidal gene from her mother’s side of the family. And in addition to killing the building caretaker (who seems to be aware of Rhoda’s evil side), she also is guilty of killing Claude Daigle, a classmate.
And why did she kill Claude Daigle, you might ask?
Because: HE WON THE PENMANSHIP MEDAL!
(And Rhoda clearly believed that she should have won.)
I even remember that it was called the Palmer Method.
I remember penmanship being a part of third and fourth grade curriculum, and I remember excelling at it. I could mimic the strokes easily, and so I had it down. Always an A+ on that particular line of my report card.
But what I never told my teachers back then was that I couldn’t wait to be done with penmanship grades. I couldn’t wait because I wanted to experiment. And so, beginning in the 5th grade or so, I began exploring my options. I tried all kinds of possibilities, often imitating the penmanship of those who seemed to have found a unique and expressive world when they put pen to paper. It was probably my sophomore year in college before I found a penmanship that suited me.
The penmanship I’ve used since I was 19 or so doesn’t resemble the Palmer Method in the least. It’s more up and down than slanted. There’s not a whole lot of fanciness to it. But my energy is apparent. My penmanship reflects my personality.
… I heard on NPR recently that schools are no longer teaching penmanship (which we also used to call “real writing”).
I understand their decision, I guess.
After all, with computers being the place where people write, why teach such archaic strokes of the pen? I mean, typing is pretty much everything a kid needs to know these days, right?
There’s something truly satisfying about “finding” your penmanship. There’s something about that moment – of knowing you’re there – that tells you that a part of you has settled at last.
...There’s also the issue of signatures.
This part I really don’t get.
These kids growing up today. Kids who are not being taught “real writing”… How the hell are they supposed to sign their names?
...Of course, Rhoda Penmark signed her name in quite a unique way, didn’t she? Killing a classmate over a penmanship medal.
I’m not saying I want the topic to engender all kinds of competitive angst.
I just want to believe that kids can know from “real writing.”
I want them to experience what I did – finding my penmanship.