Recently I was clearing up a long forgotten cupboard when I found an old fountain pen. The pen took my straight back to my early school years – the mess of a leaky pen, the morning ritual of painstakingly filling ink, and the pride I felt that I was a ‘big’ girl now – I had graduated from pencil to pen! And then I realised that I didn’t know when my son (now in grade 10) had marked this rite of childhood, so I walked into his room to ask him if he remembered when he began writing with a pen.
His blank look told me what I should have realised – that today’s school children in the US don’t graduate from pencil to pen; they have taken it a step beyond and graduated to the cursor! When he was in elementary school, he did a little bit of hand writing, but even then, he never learnt to write cursive. Writing is just not part of the school’s agenda any more. Testing is no more in the form of writing out long answers and essays – most of the questions are in multiple choice format, where all that is needed in terms of writing is the ability to shade a bubble. As he progressed in years, most of his homework is done and submitted electronically, so I see him increasingly at the computer rather than at his desk.
Studies have shown that adults taught a new, invented alphabet by copying the letters by hand remember it better than those who learn it on a keyboard—and that areas in their brains that oversee language comprehension, motor-related processes and gestures associated with speech show more activity. Schoolchildren who write essays in cursive produce longer work, perform faster and express more ideas than those composing on keyboards.
But in today’s rushed new world, where everyone and every gadget seems to be getting upgraded to an electronic version, will handwriting be another victim of the electronic age? What do you think?
Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.