Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Anne Trubek's Response

In a truly kind showing, Ms. Trubek contacted me and wrote a rebuttal.  Here it is, completely unedited:

It’s never fun to get a Google Alert on your name only to read a blog posts that discredits your work by citing an anonymous student review of your teaching from years ago.  There are so many attacks on my character, integrity, research methods and intelligence here. None are substantiated. You did not reach out to me to verify if any of your claims are true. You did not read my book on the topic.  Because my character and integrity have been questioned in   “A Rebuttal to the Anti-Cursive Lady: Why Anne Trubek is Wrong, ” –I’m told I lie, have no credibitily, and am opportunistic--I’d like to respond.

My op-ed presents an opinion (that’s what an op-ed is). And it contains facts. No opinions are expressed as facts. There are no factual errors in the piece. 

From this piece I learned that I “rank poorly in citation indexes.” I’m not sure how this is pertinent. Or what it means! I haven’t published a work on scholarship in fifteen years.  I have published scholarly articles, though, and they are searchable through academic databases. Mr. Scullimbrene says that “Ms. Trubek doesn't seem to be that important of a scholar.” I agree! I am not a scholar. I left academia some time ago, and stopped writing scholarship even before that. 

Mr. Scullimbrene writes that I am “a typing apologist” and am being coy and dishonest about this. His evidence that I am a “typing apologist” is a link to a piece I wrote many years ago about touch typing. The article is not evidence that I am an apologist. I am neither coy or dishonest. 

More attacks on my character, without basis, are found in the fact that I run a magazine: 

“Getting pieces published in the New York Times is great publicity for that, especially when she takes a position like she did, one that is bound to stir up controversy and give her more visibility. “

What is the implication here? Is writing an op-ed for the New York Times good publicity? Of course. But what does that have to do with my arguments about cursive? What does it have to do with my integrity or my character? . (is the implication that an “honest, credible” writer would refuse an invitation form the NYT to write an op-ed because the publicity might be suspect?) 


“ That said, running a magazine, even a digital one, while condemning cursive is a bit like using an oven instead of a fire, but still riding a horse instead owning a car. ”

I do not ever condemn cursive. I wrote a book of obscure cultural history about cursive, in fact. 

To summarize: I am dishonest and opportunistic because I once wrote about touch typing, a student I taught didn’t like me, and I wrote something for the New York Times.

Now, as for the factual errors in my piece. I am going to switch gears here and just take these one by one

1.)        “She used buzzwords and jargon, some of which were not used correctly (or misleadingly).”  

Which words? How were they used incorrectly? You never say. 

2. ) “First, there is a clear point of derision that is common among intellectuals.  Note that all of her references to backwater political entities championing cursive came from the South--Louisiana and Alabama.” 

What derision? Where? I do not ever use the words “backwater political entities”. I also never say "those rubes from backwater states love cursive."  I never say anything about the South at all. All I do is name two states were the most recent examples I found of introducing cursive bills. 

3.)        In her article Ms. Trubek also notes that when the Louisiana legislature passed the bill to include cursive in schools they shouted "America".  She attributes this to some silly link between cursive and patriotism--a form of jingoism certain intellectuals love to deride.

            I do find evidence that people are connecting cursive to nationalism—I’ve noted this over the past few years, and it is a fairly phenomenon. My evidence is not based on “a form of jingoism certain intellectuals love to deride” but, well, evidence! From transcripts and school advertisements and things others have said or written. 

4. “This brings up another point about her dismissal of the connection between cursive and American history.” 

I never dismiss such a connection. I believe cursive to be very key to understanding American history and vice versa..  I did not leave out anything because it did not suit my narrative.  If you are curious to know more about my view on American history and cursive, I write about it at length in my book 

5. Some people prefer to handwrite because it goes slower

 I agree! I know many people who do this. I argue the Common Core should not include cursive standards.  I never say cursive is not useful or a fine option. And for this reason I agree with the benefits of cursive, why automaticity is not always a goal and the other comments listed. 

At this point I still do not know which facts I apparently got wrong in the op-ed. 

Next up: 

5. “I could find no source to support her claim that Palmer replaced Spencerian because it was more manly.  Nor could I find a source to support her quotes around the phrases "powerful hygienic effect" and "initial step in reforming many a delinquent".  Ms. Trubek should have shown her work here and didn't, but the quotes make a reader think she is pointing to a historical source.  She might be, but we don't know what it is.”  

For the best discussion of this topic, see Tamara Plakins Thornton, Handwriting in America: A Cultural History. Other citations can be found in the endnotes in my book. 

6. “Then there is the claim that is simply preposterous--the fact that her son "had to stay inside during recess for much of third grade because he wrote his j’s backward."

 What can I say? It is true. I did not lie. He had a very old school, traditional teacher. After those two years—2nd and 3rd—they were both very difficult for my son—3rd being worse--  I transferred him to a private school.  Shall I send you his report cards? The notes on the interventions that happened during those years? How should I respond to this accusation that I lie?  

You write  “Frankly, this, more than anything else she wrote tells me that her argument is nothing but shit. “ 

What can I say. It happened. Also: how does an anecdote about my son make arguments about Common Core, American history, etc.  “shit”? 

The final section take up my logic:

1.)        Apparently I say : “therefore we should not lament the loss of cursive” 

But I never say this. In fact in the op-ed I say it is a loss. 

2.)        Then I'd dispute the notion that education is merely about converting raw materials (children) into workers.” 

I agree! I do not believe the goal of education is to convert children into workers. 

3.)        “ Cursive isn't dying it is transitioning and Ms. Trubek either fails to see this or ignores it because it doesn't serve her economic purpose--selling a book about the death of handwriting.”  

I agree completely! I think it is transitioning. And my book is not about the death of handwriting. It is a history of handwriting that contains 3-4 pages about its possible future. 

I believe in the liberal arts. Also: I wrote a book of obscure cultural history! That’s pretty liberal artsy! 

4.) “She is also doing something that every 5 year old does--she admits she has terrible handwriting--maybe it's the classic case of "things that I am bad at don't matter."  

 I never said it does not matter. And I spent years researching this topic. 

5.“ To be virulently anti-cursive or to cheer its demise is as intellectually tyrannical as being a cursive authoritarian as a teacher.” 

I am not either virulently anti-cursive nor do I cheer its demise. 

6.) “It's also silly to think that kids can't do both.  There is plenty of space inside our children's brains to learn how to type and how to write in cursive. “ 

Agreed! I never say children shouldn’t learn it if they want; just that they should not be graded on their ability to master it. 

7.)  “As her RateMyProfessor reviews say more than once, she is stating an opinion (and an ill-formed one at that) as fact.  “

I argue that the logic of the Common Core is sound. That’s an opinion, stated as such, published in the Opinion section of a newspaper. 

I thank you for the chance to respond to these attacks of my honestly, credibility, and intelligence. 

Anne Trubek


  1. Seems like a pretty rock solid response.

  2. Man Tony you can stir them up. I love your work on knives but me you and pens are still a ways off. Still enjoy all your work.

  3. Hi Tony, thanks for bringing this topic to light. I'm not taking sides because I don't know enough. However I've enjoyed and learned many new things from this discourse. Ms. Trubek has categorically refuted every single one of your 'accusations'. I look forward to your considered reply, as I'm sure you'll do so when you find the time.

  4. Having read her response has your view on your first post changed?

  5. Well she certainly got 15 minutes of fame in my head (Nat Finkelstein/Andy Warhol) - "Infamy...infamy...they've all got it in for me" (Kenneth Williams, Carry On Cleo; Jimmy Edwards, Take It From Here)

    I think cursive remains one of the last bastions of individual expression and emotion and should be encouraged at all costs - who remembers/keeps the last text message from an unrequited love?

    Don't worry about the "educators" - they change their theory/process every generation, but cursive transcends centuries.

    P.S. I've just received a Gemini - it is wonderful.

  6. I don't want to take anything away from anyone but I remember struggling with a type of handwriting that took up hundreds of hours of my life on something that I never used after elementary school.