TIME society

Man Stops Robbery Mid-Proposal, Woman Obviously Says Yes

Hero husband-to-be

NBC Charlotte reports a man proposing to his girlfriend at the restaurant Salsarita’s Monday was interrupted by a man who broke in and attempted to rob the place.

Nicholas Anderson told the news station that he put the robber in a chokehold when he tried to flee, knocking him out. Then he went back to the original task at hand, taking her to Winkler Park — which was supposed to be the plan B venue — to pop the question. His girlfriend, Deanna Deal, said yes.

As Anderson told the news station, “After all of that happened, asking her to marry me wasn’t near as bad.”

TIME society

The Debate Over Cecil the Lion Should Be About Conservation

Trophy hunting may drive species' populations to the brink of extinction

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

Trophy hunting, or the selective removal of animals from a population based on a desirable trait, is a deeply polarising issue. Ethical standpoints against the deliberate killing of animals for sport are what drive the public response that we now see.

Biologists have concerns about undesirable evolutionary outcomes that may arise from the killing of ‘prime individual animals. These animals are typically males that exhibit a desirable trait, like a large mane. Conservationists, have concerns that hunting may cause inbreeding, or drive rare species’ populations in isolated protected areas to the brink of extinction.

Hunting brings in money

Despite the controversy, trophy hunting remains a legally sanctioned activity in most African countries. That is because hunting generates income. Sportsmen and women visiting Africa contribute as much as USD 201 million a year directly through hunting. This is excluding economic multipliers. And safari operators are custodians of at least 1.4 million km2 of land in sub-Saharan Africa, exceeding the area encompassed by national parks in those countries where hunting is permitted by over 20%.

Conservationists recognise that trophy hunting contributes to the protection of land from other uses such as pastoralism, where ecotourism is unviable. Bans on trophy hunting in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia have been associated with an accelerated loss of wildlife, not the other way around.

The halving of Africa’s lion population over the past 20 years is not the result of trophy hunting. African lions have declined through the classic drivers of extinction, namely habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and disease.

What’s different about Cecil

Cecil was no ordinary lion. Reportedly aged 13 years old, he was well past the normal breeding age for males of his species, what we term senescent. Male lions only gain opportunities to mate after taking over pride ownership after at least five years of age. They may hold tenure for between two and four years before being displaced by younger males. Cecil should thus have completed the genetic contribution that he could be expected to make before he was shot, and could not have been expected to live much past 15 years.

Why then had Cecil remained a breeding pride male for so long? One reason may be that the younger males that would have contested pride ownership, had been removed by hunters operating in lands neighbouring the Hwange National Park. Indeed, the Oxford University researchers who had been following Cecil’s life performance reported that 72% of the males they collared within the national park had been killed by trophy hunters, and 30% of those males shot were under four years old.

In this way, hunting taking place legitimately on land outside the formally protected area is prejudicing not only scientific research, but also the role of a flagship national park in protecting viable populations of large carnivores.

How should this conflict be resolved?

If the professional hunter and his client broke the law, then let the Zimbabwean legal system take care of that. More generally, how do conservationists trade off the money generated by trophy hunters against the huge costs of maintaining protected areas? What restrictions should be placed on where hunting takes place so that opportunities to draw candidates for hunting out of protected areas using baits placed outside their borders are prevented?

The traditional boundaries drawn on maps from parks and zones where these animals are need to be re-assessed. They need softening and buffer regions where hunting is not allowed. Alternatively, areas effectively protected within the park should have non-poaching activities that people can enjoy. Perhaps the activities in the buffer zone could be foot safaris, providing the excitement of encounters with wild animals without the destructive outcome associated with hunting.

The worldwide emotional response to the killing of this eminent animal could potentially lead to more effective reconciliation between the legitimate contributions that hunting can make to conservation, and the efforts to set aside sufficient land in protected areas to ensure the long-term persistence of the species these areas are supposed to protect.

Whatever the outcome following the death of Cecil, an emotive, uncompromising standpoint around the ethics of trophy hunting alone will not assist the conservation effort in Africa. In fact, it may well have the unintended consequence of undermining it.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Culture

A Letter to Millennials: Give Yourself the Gift of Stillness

Getty Images

Take one day a week to turn away from your screens

For my 68th birthday I gave myself the gift of stillness. Inspired by a little book by Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness, I went for three days to a Benedictine Retreat in Big Sur, California. The New Camadoli Hermitage perches 2000 feet above the Pacific and is void of cellular service, wi-fi or any other electronic convenience. That of course is the point. Aside from the chanting of the monks in the chapel, no words are spoken at the Hermitage. You are alone with your thoughts and your books in a spartan room with a porch looking out over the Pacific.

I write all of this to you, my students, because I worry that you have no appreciation of the art of stillness.

And in a way, I am just as guilty as you trying to watch TV, check my email and talk on the phone at the same time. Now that I have finished teaching I can say a few things without fear that the Rate My Professor mob won’t mark me as a “Mean Teacher.” First, I don’t believe in multi-tasking in class. I remember when for one semester I demanded that everyone shut their laptops and put away their phones during lectures, I was generally dissed and attendance fell dramatically. And I know most of you were not using your open laptops to take notes on the lectures. You were using them to check your Facebook wall.

Second, when you come in for my office hours, you seem so time stressed. Now often this is because you are asking for an extra day to turn in an assignment, but it still feels to me as if you had scheduled your life down to the last waking minute. Not to get all nostalgic on you, but I remember countless hours spent at Princeton in the late 1960’s discussing the meaning of Antonioni’s Blow Up or Bob Dylan’s Blond on Blond. Of course the beer and the pot may have erased our sense of time or urgency, but isn’t that what college is for? Not everything you do in school has to go on your resume.

Finally, I think we all have to take vacations from our devices. I know when I ask in class how many of you feel you could go for a week without your smartphone or computer, not more than a couple of hands go up. The traumatic tales I have heard from you of being off the grid for just a few hours, lead me to believe that our collective screen addiction is worse than we think.

I learned from the monks that the Benedictines believe that life revolves around five practices.

Prayer-This can be any daily silent practice or meditation.

Work-This becomes part of a balanced life. It cannot be the whole focus.

Study-Reading the wisdom of those who came before us.

Hospitality-This just means treating those around you with kindness.

Renewal-Taking one day a week to turn away from the screens and appreciate the natural beauty around us.

I am not a Catholic and yet I find the monks prescriptions to be helpful to how I want to live in the world. In the same way that I find Pope Francis a rather courageous moral voice in a world full of politicians pontificating with poll tested sound bites. I know to talk about spiritual practice at a university makes some people uncomfortable. But when I was at the monastery I kept thinking of the events of the last few weeks that took place in Charleston, South Carolina. When you think of the ability of the families of the slain church goers to forgive the shooter Dylann Roof, you can only marvel at the power of faith. I’m not sure my faith would afford me that amount of grace in the face of such evil, but I am awed to see it exist in this hateful political climate we inhabit.

And what about Leroy Smith, the black State Trooper who helped the KKK member with the Nazi T-shirt as he was fainting in the hot sun protesting the removal of the confederate flag? “Asked why he thinks the photo has had such resonance, he gave a simple answer: Love.” Our willingness to look out for each other is our greatest strength.

The great biologist E.O. Wilson makes the argument in “The Social Conquest of Earth” that evolution favored those humans who learned how to cooperate.

Some went out to hunt, while others stayed and kept the fire going. If everyone went out to hunt for their own food, they were screwed if they came back and there was no fire. This of course is why I have no truck with the arguments of Peter Theil and his Ayn Rand acolytes. Rand said, “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” You are inundated with Silicon Valley propaganda of “The Shark Tank” — the take no prisoners entrepreneur who will stop at nothing to build his company. Case Study: Uber. My Dean thinks we should teach empathy and cultural competence to these future masters of the universe.

This notion that we are alone in the world in a dog eat dog survival leads me to the final deep question I have for you as students. Why have 1000 of your brothers and sisters in college in America committed suicide this year? The New York Times reports the number of severe psychological problems reported on campus has risen 13% in the last two years. I wonder if the epidemic overuse of Adderall on campus, which we all observe, has any connection to the suicide epidemic? Needless to say, the constant consumption of speed is not going to help you slow down.

In my position running the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab I get to meet a lot of top corporate executives. I promise you they were not all straight A students in college. Some of them dropped out (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg) but many of them, like our most recent four Presidents, were B students who spent more time on campus, then they would like to admit, just having fun.

In my first of these open letters to you I talked about four skills.

I know these four elements — courage, intelligence, vulnerability, and compassion — may seem like they are working at cross-purposes, but we will need all four qualities if we are to take on the two tasks before us.

I don’t worry about your intelligence or even your courage. But I want you to know that vulnerability and compassion are just as important. We live in a time when being snarky seems to be the default setting online. But try not to give in to that. Shun the put-down artists. Look out for the lonely ones around you. Believe in the power of love.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

How the Legacy of Slavery Affects Black Americans Today

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
David Goldman—AP The steeple of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church stands as a pedestrian passes early on June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.

There is increasing evidence that repressing feelings associated with acts of white racism may be psychologically damaging

On July 22, in announcing the federal indictment of Charleston killer Dylann Roof, Attorney General Loretta Lynch commented that the expression of forgiveness offered by the victims’ families is “an incredible lesson and message for us all.”

Forgiveness and grace are, indeed, hallmarks of the Black Church.

Since slavery, the church has been a formidable force for the survival of blacks in an America still grappling with the residual effects of white supremacy.

This was eloquently illustrated in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre. Americans rightly stood in awe of the bereaved families’ laudable demonstration of God’s grace in action.

But what about the psychic toll that these acts of forgiveness exact?

Events like Charleston put a spotlight on the growing body of literature that looks not only at the United States’ failure to have authentic conversations about slavery and its legacy but also at the mental health impact of forgiving acts of white racism and repressing justifiable feelings of anger and outrage – whether these are horrific acts of terrorism or nuanced microaggressions.

I am a social work educator and practitioner with 25 years of experience in the field of mental health. I teach at one of the nation’s leading schools of social work, committed to preparing its graduates to work with racially and ethnically diverse populations. It is time, I believe, to bring this new field of inquiry into the mainstream.

The church as buffer

In his seminal book, Mighty Like A River, the Black Church and Social Reform, sociologist Andrew Billingsley asserts that the Black Church is the only African-American institution that has not been reenvisioned in the image of whites.

His research illuminates the role of religion in building the resilience that allows blacks as a people to overcome the various forms of terrorism and oppression endured over centuries that sustain doctrines of white supremacy.

Indeed, in his analysis of the African-American family, Billingsley concludes that it is “amazingly strong, enduring, adaptive and highly resilient.”

But as we pay homage to church and family in buffering blacks against the full effects of white racism, we must not obscure or diminish racism’s impact on the mental health that few blacks – irrespective of educational, social or economic status – will escape.

There is increasing evidence that repressing feelings associated with acts of white racism may be psychologically damaging and lay the foundation for future mental health problems and behaviors symptomatic of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Evidence of racism’s impact on mental health

Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint asked why suicide rates among black males doubled between 1980 and 1995.

In his co-authored book, Lay My Burden Down: Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis among African-Americans, which takes its title from a Negro spiritual describing the hardships of the slave system, he argues that one of the reasons for this increase is that African-American young men may see the afterlife as a better place.

Terrie M Williams is a clinical social worker in New York. In her book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, she uses powerful personal narratives of blacks from all walks of life to illustrate the high toll of hiding the pain associated with the black experience on mental health.

Joy DeGruy, Portland State University researcher and scholar, has developed “post-traumatic slave syndrome” as a theory for explaining the effects of unresolved trauma on the behaviors of blacks that is transmitted from generation to generation.

DeGruy’s argument may be controversial, but the questions she asked are surely relevant as we try to make sense, for example, of research released this July that shows suicide rates among black elementary school pupils significantly increasing between 1993 and 2012.

Moving to the mainstream…slowly

The fact is that from my perspective at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, these publications have yet to move into mainstream literature. They have low visibility in the curricula and training programs for mental health professionals.

Nor have the questions these scholars and practitioners raised led to the kind of research that is needed to support race-conscious and culturally appropriate practices for the mental health programs and agencies working with African-American families.

At the same time, however, the original thinking of authors like Poussaint and DeGruy is very much in sync with the new emphasis on trauma-informed care in social work across all fields of practice.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a May 2014 research report, undiagnosed childhood neglect or trauma is widespread among American adults and is the root cause of mental health and behavioral problems in adulthood.

Indeed, it is now the recommendation of the National Council for Behavioral Health that trauma-informed care be integrated into all assessment and treatment procedures.

This emphasis on trauma provides a new lens for developing research into the impact of slavery – and its legacy of structural and institutional racism – on black mental health today.

A difficult topic of conversation

The problem is, no one likes to talk about slavery.

For blacks descended from slaves, the subject evokes feelings of shame and embarrassment associated with the degradations of slavery. For whites whose ancestry makes them complicit, there are feelings of guilt about a system that is incongruent with the democratic ideals on which this country was founded.

Cloaked in a veil of silence or portrayed as a benevolent system that was in the best interest of blacks, slavery – much like mental illness – has become shrouded in secrecy and stigma.

Associated emotions are pushed away.

Anger, however, is a healthy emotion, as even the Scriptures acknowledge.

The God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. In the New Testament, Jesus vents his anger in driving the money changers from the Temple.

As research (including my own) has shown, when anger is internalized and driven deep into the unconscious, contaminated by unresolved pain, it becomes problematic.

So what happens to the anger felt by people discriminated against and, in extreme cases, physically targeted because of their race?

Not enough is known about the relationship between clinical depression and race. But there are extensive findings (including reports by the Surgeon General) that attribute racial disparities in mental health outcomes for African Americans and whites to clinician bias, socioeconomic status and environmental stressors (such as high rates of crime and poor housing). And there is evidence of a link between perceived racism and adverse psychological outcomes such as increased levels of anxiety, depression and other psychiatric symptoms.

The numbers tell a story. According to the Minority Health Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, black adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than white adults and are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than do their white counterparts.

And yet there continues to be reluctance to forthrightly confront the impact of racism on mental health. Some of my colleagues, for example, say that content on race and racism is the most challenging content for them to teach. Authentic dialogue on race is constrained by the fear of being “political incorrect.” It takes less effort to promote the more inclusive liberal view that we live in a “color-blind society.”

It may be easier to allow everyone to remain in their comfort zone. But today as the U.S. faces what would appear to be an epidemic of race-based attacks committed by whites, it is time to examine how our history of racism affects the mental health of African Americans as well as that of whites.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

Watch These Students Perform a Powerful Haka Dance at a Teacher’s Funeral

An emotional tribute

At the funeral for a New Zealand teacher Dawson Tamatea, who died in his sleep at age 55, students at Palmerston North Boys’ High School in Manawatu performed a haka, a traditional dance and war chant native to New Zealand’s Maori people. (The All Blacks rugby team can usually be seen doing the ancestral tribute before a match.)

The “entire school” performed the emotional tribute as the hearse arrived, according to a description of the video on YouTube. School rector David Bovey described the performance as “spine-tingling” in an interview with ONE News.





TIME society

How to Fulfill the Promise of the Americans With Disabilities Act

People participate in the first annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City on July 12, 2015.
Stephanie Keith—Getty Images People participate in the first annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City on July 12, 2015.

Ensuring equity, access and inclusion is a shared responsibility

In July 1990, President George H W Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in an action that “gave voice to the nation’s highest ideals.”

As we celebrate 25 years of ADA, we can see the significance of this law. The ADA challenged discrimination and helped remove many barriers, so people with disabilities could lead independent lives.

Today, there are roughly 56.7 million Americans, comprising 19% of the civilian population, with some form of disability, who are able to participate in mainstream society.

More than 700,000 students are enrolled in American public and private colleges and universities with documented disabilities including dyslexia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), sensory and mobility issues, mental illness, and health impairments.

But what is important to note is that the promise of ADA cannot be fulfilled unless those without disabilities act on its “clear, strong, consistent and enforceable standards.”

In my work as an experienced special educator, I have observed allies for people with disabilities across the country among students, faculty and administrators who recognize their role in fulfilling this promise.

So how are they advocating for people with disabilities on their college campuses? They are creating change by sponsoring inclusive organizations, teaching to specific learning needs and making campus policies more equitable.

A proclamation of emancipation

The ADA was brought in to ensure that people with disabilities get equal opportunities to fully participate in all aspects of community life, to live independently and to achieve economic self-sufficiency through the removal of barriers that prevent their meaningful inclusion in American life.

The ADA builds on 20 years of disability-specific legislation to eliminate the historic and pervasive isolation and segregation of Americans with disabilities. Before that, they were viewed as objects of pity, unable to work, go to school or live on their own.

The ADA altered this view by making buildings, transportation and services change so people with disabilities could participate.

Former Senator Tom Harkin, the chief sponsor of the ADA in Congress, referred to the law as the “20th century emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities.”

In 2008, new amendments to the ADA broadened the standard used to define a disability and extended protections to individuals with substantial limitations in a variety of major life activities including reading, concentrating and working.

The amendments also extended protections to those using a variety of supports such as cochlear implants, hearing aids and prosthetics.

In short, the ADA is not just about people with disabilities; it is about society at large. Ensuring equity, access and inclusion is a shared responsibility.

What has changed on campus

So, how are some of these changes reflected in today’s society? I see this every day on our campus: students and faculty using wheelchairs, accessible e-readers for those with low vision, sign language interpreters and other technologies that allow people to learn and to work.

As an instructor, I get help from the campus disability resource center to make sure I provide reasonable instructional accommodations in my classes, such as repeating or clarifying directions, or providing a note-taker, to students who need them.

Today’s undergraduates grew up in a post-ADA world where people with disabilities are expected to be included in, not segregated from, campus life. Many attended elementary and secondary schools alongside students with disabilities.

They are used to interacting in classes, clubs and community activities with friends and peers whose disabilities are just a part of life.

Early experiences have prepared these young adults to interact with increasing numbers of people with disabilities on campus. About 11% of college students have documented disabilities. Their full-time enrollment grew by 45% and part-time enrollment by 26% between 2000 and 2010. There are also about 250,000 higher education faculty memberswho have disabilities.

College leaders use strategies such as universal design and disability education to prevent discrimination against students and employees.

The concept of universal design means making things accessible and desirable to as many people as possible. For example, curb-cuts in the sidewalk were made for wheelchair users, but are used by everyone.

Architects use principles of universal design in building dormitories, classrooms and labs.

Universal design also applies to curriculum materials and teaching methods, such as presenting content and encouraging students to participate and respond to instruction in a variety of ways.

Programs in disability education and disability studies promote campus awareness about the experiences of people with disabilities and advocacy for social change. Courses can be taken at most universities to reduce the stigma still associated with disabilities.

On my campus at the University of Florida, students from different fields, including business, design, engineering, nursing, education, prelaw and medicine, enroll in the Disabilities in Society minor so they will be prepared to interact successfully with future coworkers, customers and neighbors with disabilities.

Way forward

However, despite these 25 years of advocacy, for many Americans with disabilities, equity and inclusion are still out of reach. And more needs to be done to fulfill the promise of the law.

Stigma and stereotypes are still perpetuated on college campuses, where students with disabilities tend to leave school after two years and graduate at half the rate of their classmates. They are also employed at half the rate of workers their own age who do not have disabilities.

Up to now, the most common experience of people with disabilities has been discrimination. Perhaps the greatest success of the ADA would be that discrimination would no longer be a shared experience in the future.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

Watch Men React to Other Guys Catcalling Their Girlfriends (It Isn’t Pretty)

See how they respond

In a video produced by Cosmopolitan, men watch footage of strangers catcalling their girlfriends while walking through New York City. One man appears to tell one of the women that the strip club he is standing in front of is hiring, while another compliments a woman’s hair as a way to start flirting with her.

Most of the men react relatively calmly, presumably because they realize they are on camera — after all, the entire Internet will be able to view their responses. But the most profane reaction is saved for last, as a guy loses it when a stranger appears to compliment his girlfriend’s breasts.

As one of the men in the video said, “I’m glad people are making it [catcalling] an issue.”

TIME society

Strangers Pitch In to Feed Parking Meter for Mom Stuck in Hospital With Sick Newborn

Dozens of people offered to help

Facebook moms to the rescue!

As Kaylee Goemans sat in an emergency room with her 6-week-old baby, the last thing she wanted to worry about was an empty parking meter.

Thanks to a slew of mothers on Facebook, she didn’t have to.

Goemans, 27, rushed her son Dominic to a hospital in Barrie, Ontario, with intestinal issues on July 13, according to CBS News Toronto.

Unable to afford the hospital’s $15 parking fee, the mother of three poured four hours worth of change into a parking meter, thinking the hospital visit would be quick, TODAY reports.

The hospital stay lasted longer than she expected. Goemans didn’t want to leave her newborn, but worried that her car would be towed or ticketed. So she posted to a local Facebook group for help.

“Women just started pouring in, asking what car I drove and where I was parked to put change in for me, ” Goemans told TODAY.

In just a few hours, five women went to the woman’s car and fed the meter.

One Facebook user commented on the mother’s post, writing, “2 more hours added no need to worry about that. Give baby a hug from me,” according to TODAY.

Additionally, the post received 100 comments from people looking to encourage or help the woman.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME society

Walmart Employee to Celebrate 103rd Birthday

Jeremy Charles—Jeremy Charles

He's been at the store since 1983

Loren Wade has been working at Walmart since 1983, and on Saturday, the retail giant will celebrate his 103rd birthday with a party in his honor. The World War II veteran is a full-time associate at the Winfield, Kansas store, where he works in the lawn and garden department.

“The company seems to like me and I appreciate it so much if they still let me work,” Wade told a local FOX affiliate. “They are so good to me. It’s a great company”

The party is expected to feature free cake, hot dogs, chips and drinks, according to the Winfield Daily Courier.

TIME Education

Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Set on Saving Cursive

It's not as loopy as it may sound

A mother-daughter team is fighting a battle that should inspire bands of ruler-wielding teachers to join them in the fray—and will lead others to accuse them of being out of touch with the modern student. Linda Shrewsbury and Prisca LeCroy want America’s future generations to learn cursive, and they’ve just finished publishing their first book on the subject, which Kickstarters gave them over $33,000 to design and produce.

It’s easy to make the argument that class time would be better spent teaching kids to type 80 words-per-minute (or to code for that matter). In this digital age, isn’t giving cursive pride of place in the curriculum the didactic equivalent of teaching teens to ride horses instead of drive cars? After all, the Common Core standards being adopted by states around the country don’t waste any space on laying out penmanship goals.

Courtesy Linda ShrewsburyLinda Shrewsbury, left, and her daughter Prisca LeCroy are on a mission to preserve cursive.

The ladies have plenty of retorts to this line of thinking. Chief among their scientific missiles are studies that show cursive fires up areas of the brain that tracing, typing or even printing letters does not. “They’re doing some studies that seem to suggest there’s something special about cursive,” says 34-year-old LeCroy, who was home-schooled by Shrewsbury before becoming an attorney and is now a full-time stay-at-home mom in Dallas.

Teaching kids old-fashioned penmanship, proponents like her argue, helps refine their fine motor skills and their visual cognition, while beefing up the lobes known to underline successful reading. One study found that students who handwrote rather than typed on writing assignments tended to write more and come up with more ideas.

Then there is the cultural ammunition. Only kids who can read cursive will make a jot of sense out of the original copy of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.—where the two of them recently gave a presentation on this very topic. “Do we want them to actually have the capacity to be historians?” says LeCroy. “Or do we want them to be lemmings?” For Shrewsbury, cursive is a proud old vehicle for fostering artistry and individuality in people, as well as a line the ties us to the past.

“My strongest feeling about cursive is the idea you can capture individuality and personality in a signature and have it be preserved for generations,” says Shrewsbury, a 63-year-old who has taught government to students in Tulsa and English to students in Africa. “I think about the fact that I know the handwriting of members of my family. The idea of throwing away a tradition that powerful and simple makes no senses to me.”

Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call “over oval, back trace.” If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:


Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. “I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,” she says.

Unfortunately, TIME cannot reveal all their secrets because rather than tackle this issue through lawmaking—as many would-be saviors of cursive have—these ladies are trying to win the battle through business. The book on their method is called CursiveLogic, and in Shrewsbury’s dreams, these guides will sell like such hotcakes that she can eventually use the proceeds to start local education programs in Tulsa for African-American boys and men who, like Josh, “have fallen through the cracks” of the educational system.

The ladies aren’t arguing that teaching kids cursive should displace typing classes, but not be lost in the dust of progress. LeCroy says that with even the suggestion that it might have benefits—in an era when we’re making more things with pixels and fewer with our hands—cursive is a craft worth preserving. “Wouldn’t it be bad if a generation if kids didn’t learn it?” she says. “Why would we want to strip away that little bit of creativity?”

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