Is Cursive Still Worth It? With all of our technology and reliance on computers, many schools are phasing out some handwriting lessons. Specifically, schools have stopped teaching cursive. We talk to two experts about whether that’s a good idea.
The Fight for Paternity Leave: Bringing a new baby home is exciting.. and chaotic. The last thing parents want to worry about is their work life. But for many dads, the stigma and financial burdens of trying to stay home means they have little time to bond at home. We talk to Josh Levs, a journalist who took the fight for paternity leave head-on.
Most of us remember a time in our early education when we practiced handwriting and cursive. Classes were spent tracing letters and perfecting slanted writing. Today, many adults possess useful handwriting skills, but they may be the last generation to do so. Children are only receiving longhand writing training from kindergarten through second grade, or ages 5-7. We talk with Jan Olsen, occupational therapist and President of Handwriting Without Tears, as she recalls the Whole Language movement of the 1970s which pushed for a greater consideration of content within writing, rather than quality of handwriting. Overtime, this has led to the reduction of time allocated to handwriting instruction in schools. Olsen argues that since the focus on language has switched, teachers are no longer being trained on the best handwriting practices. She says, “That’s the dirty little secret in education. [Teachers] don’t want to teach handwriting because they don’t know how.” Olsen also mentions the importance of continued practice, stating that our proficiency in writing is traced back to when we stopped practicing it. So, for example, an adult who only practiced handwriting through the age of eight has the handwriting proficiency of an eight-year-old. Olsen stresses the necessity of cursive writing, saying “There are still many times when being able to write in cursive, or to read in cursive, is an important life skill socially, educationally, vocationally.”
Margaret Shepherd, calligrapher, artist, and author of Learn World Calligraphy, believes that cursive is not only important for communicating thoughts and ideas, but also personality. She points out how signatures are very personal and unique, and suggests that the way we write and sign documents plays a large factor in whether or not other people will perceive them as important. Shepherd explains how professionals used to be trained in handwriting, and shares that the rarity of handwritten notes and messages today makes them all the more precious and useful when conducting business. She also speculates that just as technology and keyboarding have replaced long hand writing, in the future some other medium of communication will surpass typing. Shepherd hypothesizes that longhand writing on tablets will be used soon, as such instruments exist in our world already.
With a new baby comes new territory, including feeding, burping, changing and cuddling. Typically when a family welcomes their new child, the mother will take an extended -or permanent- leave from work and serve as the primary caretaker. However, in our modern society of two-income households and highly competitive workplaces, fathers are beginning to stay home as often as mothers. Yet businesses have not seemed to adapt as quickly as domestic customs have, and only 14% of U.S. companies offer paid paternity leave. Josh Levs, journalist, father of 3, and author of All In: How our work-first culture fails dads, families, and businesses – and how we can fix it together, provides his opinion and expertise on the subject. He comments, “Once the baby is out of the womb, men are just as capable as women are of doing the things that are needed to take care of a child. It’s really important to make sure that families have choices.” As a new father, Levs recognized how his employer’s policy did not allow him to take paternity leave, and he shares how he worked to reform this policy to allow all employees the chance to have paid leave.
Under United States federal law, all employees have the right to unpaid leave. However, families who require the financial security that two incomes provide must find a way to continue receiving their salary. Levs suggests a solution for this called the The Family Act, which would provide paid leave through the government instead of through companies. All employees would pay 20 cents of every $100 they make into a large fund, and then would be eligible to receive money from this fund should they need to take a leave from work. Based on the success of current programs in New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island, this would pay employees up to ⅔ of their salary while on leave, for up to 12 weeks, and would take the strain off of small businesses. Businesses and corporations also have the option to pay their own employees themselves, and will reap the benefits of keeping on their top employees. Levs concludes with a description of why he believes that paternity leave is an issue worth discussing. He says, “In this country we need policies that will allow families to make choices about whether the mom will go back to work or the guy will go back to work… Employees should be able to take time off to care for a loved one, and get paid for all or part of it.”
Discovering one of the most well-known ancient civilizations was no easy task. We talk to author William Carlsen about the two men who ventured into the jungle and discovered the Mayans.
In 1839, rumors of extraordinary yet baffling stone ruins buried within the unmapped jungles of Central America reached two of the world’s most intrepid explorers. Seized by the reports, American diplomat John Lloyd Stephens and British artist Frederick Catherwood—both already celebrated for their adventures in Egypt, the Holy Land, Greece, and Rome—sailed together out of New York Harbor on an expedition into the forbidding rainforests of present-day Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. What they found would upend the West’s understanding of human history.
In the tradition of Lost City of Z and In the Kingdom of Ice, former San Francisco Chronicle journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist William Carlsen reveals the remarkable story of the discovery of the ancient Maya. Enduring disease, war, and the torments of nature and terrain, Stephens and Catherwood meticulously uncovered and documented the remains of an astonishing civilization that had flourished in the Americas at the same time as classic Greece and Rome—and had been its rival in art, architecture, and power. Their masterful book about the experience, written by Stephens and illustrated by Catherwood, became a sensation, hailed by Edgar Allan Poe as “perhaps the most interesting book of travel ever published” and recognized today as the birth of American archaeology. Most important, Stephens and Catherwood were the first to grasp the significance of the Maya remains, understanding that their antiquity and sophistication overturned the West’s assumptions about the development of civilization.
By the time of the flowering of classical Greece (400 b.c.), the Maya were already constructing pyramids and temples around central plazas. Within a few hundred years the structures took on a monumental scale that required millions of man-hours of labor, and technical and organizational expertise. Over the next millennium, dozens of city-states evolved, each governed by powerful lords, some with populations larger than any city in Europe at the time, and connected by road-like causeways of crushed stone. The Maya developed a cohesive, unified cosmology, an array of common gods, a creation story, and a shared artistic and architectural vision. They created stucco and stone monuments, sculpting figures and hieroglyphs with refined artistic skill. At their peak, an estimated ten million people occupied the Maya’s heartland on the Yucatan Peninsula, a region where only half a million now live. And yet by the time the Spanish reached the “New World,” the Maya had all but disappeared; they would remain a mystery for the next three hundred years.
Today, the tables are turned: the Maya are justly famous, if sometimes misunderstood, while Stephens and Catherwood have been nearly forgotten. Based on Carlsen’s rigorous research and his own 1,500-mile journey throughout the Yucatan and Central America, Jungle of Stone is equally a thrilling adventure narrative and a revelatory work of history that corrects our understanding of Stephens, Catherwood, and the Maya themselves.
Wonder Woman is breaking box office records in her first solo film, and we look at what makes her so in tune with the times. Professor, author, and editor Travis Langley explains how Wonder Woman’s pursuit of the truth, belief in humanity, and inspirational name make her the perfect heroine for now.
During World War II, Americans idolized Superman for his bravery and patriotism. During the post-9/11 era of terrorism and new surveillance tactics, Batman was popular for protecting Gotham City from impending doom. Now, in times of fake news and the Women’s March, Wonder Woman has risen to the occasion.
A pinnacle of truth, wonder, and girl power, the heroine differs starkly from heroes in the past. Travis Langley, co-editor of Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth says the biggest difference is that Wonder Woman is a more well-adjusted character. Whereas Spiderman lost his parents and avenges the death of his late uncle, and Batman is an orphan who succeeded despite his gloomy prospects, the new Wonder Woman film depicts her as enjoying a healthy childhood in fictional paradise Themyscira, with a nurturing family, loving neighbors, and the promise of a bright future ahead of her. Although she does leave the island, much to the disdain of her mother, her background story is quite ideal when compared to her male superhero counterparts.
Langley notes that her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a psychologist who helped to invent the polygraph machine. He understood human nature and chose to show Diana flourishing, bringing light and truth to Europe during World War I. Langley explains, “Here he is, involved in the development of the lie detector, the science of truth. And he creates this heroine who’s very well known for having a magic lasso… she could use to make people tell the truth.” Wonder Woman’s commitment to honesty does not go unnoticed during our current alternative fact epidemic, and her devotion for factuality resonates with Americans in movies theatres across the country.
Unlike its heroine-centered predecessors Supergirl, which premiered more than three decades ago, failed spectacularly, and Catwoman, which fared the same, Wonder Woman has outsold movies such as Iron Man and Captain America, and set a new record for opening weekend profits from a female-directed film. Langley attributes this to relevance. Wonder Woman’s debut comes just months after the historic Women’s March, the largest march in American history, and during a new wave of feminism. Wonder Woman is also unattached from other heroes, unlike Bullet Girl and Bullet Man, and is not just a femme fatale character, unlike Phantom Lady. As Langley says, “She’s not the first female superhero, there have been others, but the ones before her tended to be derivative… [she is] a full fledged, strong, female superhero defined by herself, not by anybody else.”