Blotting your copybook used to be more than a figure of speech. It was, for some, a frightening everyday reality of life in school. This scene fromThe 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups, 1959), written and directed by Francois Truffaut, resonates with me. Antoine Doinel’s teacher – “Sourpuss” is a harsh disciplinarian – basically an unimaginative bully.
Taking dictation, keeping up, making mistakes, trying to cover up, failing behind. And using that dip-in pen with ink from the inkwell embedded in the desk. Childhood nightmare in the making.
There are many terrific school scenes in The 400 Blows ( Les Quatre Cents Coups directed by François Truffaut 1959.) The recipient of the “blows”, Antoine Doinel, suffers mightily from the injustice meted out by Sourpuss. The film portrays so many poignant disconnects and misunderstandings between adults and the reality of children’s perceptions, lives and experience.
Gary’s tweet and this post and this post led to some interesting commentary on the subject of the move away from teaching cursive and why it’s not going to go away quietly just yet at least. I won’t mourn that passing either but there is something very personal about the handwritten. Looking back at old notes taken in class, at diary entries and essays I know immediately that I wrote them. All that emphasis on neatness over content and time spent on practice created a very indifferent style*. But one that is distinctly mine.
* (One teacher who lamented that he could not read my work said it was the work of a mad spider.)