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This article on How the ballpoint pen killed cursive (via andrewducker) reminds me of something.

I did a single year in London pre-tertiary education, in first year secondary school. One of the many differences between that and my otherwise mostly US-based early formal education was that the school required us to have a fountain pen. My parents bought me a cheap basic school model, refilled with cartridges like everyone else. It was meant for more formal writing situations (with ballpoints allowed in less formal situations), but I found it awkward since I hadn't ever used one before that. As I know from later usage, better-quality fountain pens can be lovely to write with; this one wasn't.

But that's not the point. I haven't heard anyone discuss fountain pens outside the realm of specialist love and practice since then.

Are fountain pens still used in the UK educational system anywhere, or have they fallen by the wayside in the intervening decades?

(My own pen-love has largely settled on superfine felt-tips these days.)


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2015 10:39 pm (UTC)
I was the same - taught cursive with a fountain pen in junior school, switched to a ballpoint when I switched to a (less nice/middle-class) school at 11-ish, switched to printing as soon as possible, and then to typing as soon as I was allowed to hand in printed essays (university).

I haven't seen fountain pens in a very long time. Probably not since I was 11. (Except in the hand of Neil Gaiman, who likes such things.)
Aug. 31st, 2015 06:05 am (UTC)

Daughter's (ca. 1,000 pupil) primary school tought cursive writing with a fountain pen. i think she is still expected to use one in secondary - I'll check when she gets up.

Sep. 1st, 2015 09:12 pm (UTC)
Please do! No one else on this thread seems to know.
Sep. 2nd, 2015 08:27 am (UTC)
Daughter says she and some of her friends still use pens, at their own option. It is not required by the school.

She also disputes my version of her primary school requirements and does not remember being taught. However, I remember the letter that required her to have a pen for the purpose so trust my recollection here rather than hers.

If I remember, I will ask my teacher friends when I see them. However, I will miss the September social in that circle so may not.
Aug. 31st, 2015 07:58 am (UTC)
I haven't used a fountain pen for a long time, though there are about six in the house. I learned to write what in those days we called 'joined up writing' with a dip pen and an inkwell. (This was in the 50s.) In the 60s, we weren't allowed ball points but had to use a fountain pen until I was in the sixth form when this got relaxed a bit, particularly for note taking.

I can't draft things in any detail on the computer - I have to have something in long hand to start

I can write quite prettily with a ball point, though an italic tip is my pen of choice for 'posh'...
Aug. 31st, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
I still use a fountain pen if/when I hand write first drafts of stories. (see icon) Mostly I type. I use a biro or rollerball at work, just for convenience and lack of leaking. Like lil_shepherd, I learned to write with a pencil and then a dip-in-the-ink pen. I had my first fountain pen at the age of about 10. The headmistress at the time considered biros to be the work of the devil, so if your parents couldn't afford a fountain pen, you had to keep using the horrible scratchy dip pens. I still used a fountain pen throughout secondary school, though at some point biros became acceptable.

I'm pretty sure that the schools here don't use fountain pens any more. My kids did have them for school, but they are now grown up and have children of their own, so not an indication as to what is happening now.

Edited at 2015-08-31 09:00 am (UTC)
Aug. 31st, 2015 02:30 pm (UTC)
I was taught cursive in pencil on double-ruled paper. Since the examples on the board were in chalk, pencil was probably a closer analogy than fountain pen would have been, though I may have felt disappointed that my letters didn't come out as pretty as the calligraphy in movies or pictures. We already knew printing from kindergarten, I suppose. I don't recall when I actually learned to make printed letters.
Aug. 31st, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC)
I don't know about UK schools but in my French high school they definitely used them and, I would think, probably still do.
Sep. 2nd, 2015 01:34 pm (UTC)
I am a teacher and French colleagues, even very young ones, are always appalled by their English pupils' infantile handwriting.

Sep. 1st, 2015 07:19 am (UTC)
It's a few years since I left the Civil Service, but there were certainly a number of people - mostly senior officials - who kept a fountain pen specifically for 'writing off' documents - and I suspect that if fountain pens are used at all in schools it will be by senior teachers for much the same purpose. Pupils not so much. Though I learned with a dip pen (actually I have a vague feeling that I may be old enough to have used chalk and a slate for very early writing experience) and still have a supply of both fountain pens and dip pens for calligraphic work (a legacy of art college) I doubt that schools use them much.

I expect that there are a number of people around today who (inspired by Harry Potter) know how to use a quill pen.
Sep. 1st, 2015 02:07 pm (UTC)
We learnt joined up writing with a pencil first, then a fibre-tip pen. We did have rules at primary school about the types of pen we could use but I can't remember what they were - ballpoints may have been prohibited but I'm not sure. I have no idea what the current practice is, I'm afraid.
Sep. 2nd, 2015 01:31 pm (UTC)
I was taught cursive, by school (mainly by close-to retirement WWII-veteran teacher) and my mother (born 1918).

I cannot write comfortably or legibly with a biro, especially now I have quite severe arthritis in my hands, so use either a fine fibre tip or one of my fountain pens to mark work and make any hand-written records.

Some of my pupils - bear in mind I work with a lot of the poorest kids in mainstream schools and a mixture of kids with special needs - have never seen a fountain pen before and are bemused by mine. I encourage them to use a form of cursive, because you can write quicker with it, and while exams are still hand-written, that is a huge advantage over printing letters.

My pupils and some of my younger colleagues struggle to read my writing. They think my cursive lower case zed is a three and are bewildered by my lower case esses and pees and bees.

I get kids to improve their writing by using fibretips, and when I could two decent fountain pens for a quid in Poundland, used to give out fountain pens as prizes.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )