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Should We Just Get Rid of Handwriting?


Missouri University School of Journalism, original photo by Mollie Sterling that went viral some years ago- via Losing Context

We've posted about the (purported) obsolescence of cursive handwriting on Neatorama before, but should all forms of handwriting be dead? Yes, according to Anne Trubek. The Oberlin College associate professor argues that handwriting is a technology that's just too slow modern times (and even for our minds) that we should just do away with it:

Nevertheless, people seem to think that school kids should be spending more time honing their mastery of the capital G. A 2007 U.S. Department of Education study found that 90 percent of teachers spend 10 minutes a day on handwriting. Zaner-Bloser, the most popular handwriting curriculum used today, deems that too little and is encouraging schools to up that amount to at least 15 minutes a day.

But typing in school has a democratizing effect, as did the typewriter. It levels the look of prose to allow expression of ideas, not the rendering of letters, to take center stage.

Trubek went on to explain the evils of handwriting, at least in grade school:

Does having good handwriting signal intelligence? No, not any more than it reveals one's religiosity. But many teachers make this correlation: It is called the "handwriting effect." Steve Graham, a professor at Vanderbilt University who studies handwriting acquisition, says that "teachers form judgments, positive or negative, about the literary merit of text based on its overall legibility." Graham's studies show that "[w]hen teachers rate multiple versions of the same paper differing only in terms of legibility, they assign higher grades to neatly written versions of the paper than the same versions with poorer penmanship." This is particularly problematic for boys, whose fine-motor skills develop later than do girls. Yet all children are taught at the same time — usually printing in first grade and cursive in third. If you don't have cursive down by the end of third grade, you may never become proficient at it.

While we once judged handwriting as religiously tinted, now secular, we transpose our prejudices to intelligence. The new SAT Writing Exam, instituted in 2006, requires test takers to write their essays in No. 2 pencil. Not only will those with messy handwriting be graded lower than ones written more legibly, but those who write in cursive — 15 percent of test takers in 2006 — received higher scores than those who printed.

Link - Thanks Janice Sinclaire!

So, what do you think? Should we just get rid of handwriting altogether?


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Another consideration for having legible handwriting is the ability to write gracious thank you notes. These should always be handwritten, not just signed pre-printed cards, or e-mails. Imagine a perspective employer receiving a thank you note from the interviewee in a childish scrawl. Good manners, including nicely written notes, indicate a complete education and (barring any conditions out of our control) discipline to master a task which others may perceive as unnecessary.
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Handwriting is still very important - we are not going to get rid of writing with a pen/pencil just because we have computers - It is like getting rid of magazines because we have online magazines.
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Interesting, because at my school (NDSU) a ban on laptops in the classroom is being discussed because more people are on facebook than taking notes. Here the paper note-takers are triple the number of laptop users in every class, might I add.

Personally, I can't stand to take notes on my laptop. I find it too restricting.
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I find that writing my class notes on a notebook is way more convenient especially for last minute reviews before a test, while most of my classmates have to wait for the slides to download from the internet.
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I suffered horribly at learning cursive when I was in second and third grade. I simply did not have the motor skills to perform the pen strokes properly. But, the ability to write notes by hand is still incredibly relevant in today's society. I know that for myself when I take notes, even in the humanities, I use symbolic representations as often as written words, for that my sketchbook is the only place to take notes. I also believe that the current curriculum taught for cursive is old, outdated and flawed. A newer curriculum teaches Italic instead of cursive, it increases speed, legibility and ease of writing.
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