Monday, June 11, 2012

The Importance of Handwriting

It is a sad but true fact that handwritten word is dying out. Cursive, which I learned early on in my education, is already being eliminated from most grade schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if they soon do away with handwriting altogether.

So this is me announcing my stance on this issue to the world at large. I believe that handwritten work is valuable and should remain a key part of children’s education. I’ve developed a personal list of reasons why handwriting is important to me. There’s pretty much no research involved, and most all of it is comprised solely of my opinions…but putting points in a list always make them seem more reasonable.

With that, let us begin.

Brogie McDoogerson’s Opinionated List of Reasons Why Children Should Continue to Learn to Write by Hand (Long Winded Official Sounding Title – LWOST)

1. Handwriting and retention…

Had I actually done the research, I’m sure I could tell you that there have already been many studies done on this topic alone. Since I haven’t, though, I’ll spare you my ideas on what doctors and academics would say and get right to my personal experience.

I know for a fact that I retain information better when I’ve written it down by hand. Even in my old university classrooms where professors would talk at the speed of light and my cramping hand struggled to keep up, I found this to be an indisputable truth. Sure, I brought in my laptop on some occasions to try out the notes on computer thing. They are certainly prettier and more easily organized when you type them out, I won’t argue with you on that point. However, I find that just typing out the words I hear does absolutely nothing to help me learn the material. Perhaps it is because I took my time when I first learned to type, and my knowledge of the home row is second nature. All I know is that my grades were better by the end of every class in which I stuck to pen and paper note taking.

This applies in practical settings as well. Just the other day, I found myself consulting google maps to guide me to a building in Manhattan. As I would be underground for 90% of my journey, using a GPS was not really an option. My only other choice? Carry a formatted directions list with me. I know from past experience that it would be a waste of paper to print out those google directions. I’ve nearly died driving while trying to glance over the oddly specific list of instructions. A computerized directions sheet has never helped me get anywhere. So on this particular venture into the city, I wrote down the prominent way markers in my note pad. I took care to write them out slowly enough to make them stick. Bringing the note pad along proved unnecessary. I didn’t even have to look at it once to reach my destination. Thanks handwriting skills!

2. Written words hold power…

There is something to be said for the authority of handwritten word. Most official documents still require a signature. This is made even more official when a witness (a notary or some such) will testify that the signature is in fact an original. This is usually done with a signature of their own. Whether it’s a professional contract or a cover letter, a pen to paper signature still carries weight. When someone commits the simple act of writing their name down on paper, a document is personalized in a way that typed words could never hope to accomplish.

Even more important to me is the act of hand writing a letter. The professional world is its own playing field, and I understand that the rules now require typed correspondence. But in the realm of personal relations, it almost seems silly to me. I have written out personal letters on the computer in the past, but in these cases I would at the very least sign the bottom with my favorite pen. However, I have always preferred to send and receive handwritten letters. To write something out by hand takes more time and effort than typing. To me, this translates as a deeper caring for the recipient of your writings. When someone takes the time to focus their thoughts through a pen and onto paper, a part of them remains with those thoughts. A handwritten letter always feels so warm to me, so pleasant.

3. If this trend continues, handwriting will become a valuable art form…

Think forward with me into a not too terribly distant future. Computers have taken over the world. Handwritten word has all but died. Young children will rummage through their grandparent’s things and ask in earnest as to the purpose of this relic they have found: a pen. The majority of grandparents will be able to tell their children’s children of a time when the pen was used to create love stories, build fantasy worlds, jot down notes in class, and communicate thoughts and dreams…but so very few will be able to demonstrate its usage. Like many other parts of history, the handwritten word will fall into obscurity and fable.

Save for the families that refused to let this skill die completely. Like the scribes of old, the descendants of stubborn folks like me will harness an ability that most will have lost long before. Handwritten work will be collectible and highly valued. The well to do may even hire my great grandchild to jot down a word or two to be displayed in their living room. Having written work in your home will be a sign of wealth. My great grandchild will, of course, be paid handsomely for his/her work. After all, nobody knows the art of writing by hand anymore in this future world. Cursive will cost an even heftier sum. And calligraphy would be more than all but the richest could afford. If things keep going like I think they will, this isn’t a totally unrealistic idea.

So with that my dear seekers of Monday Fun, I implore you to consider keeping up with handwritten word. From time to time, use real post it notes to place on your bathroom mirror instead of the widgets on your computer and phone. Write down something you’ve been having trouble committing to memory. If you care about someone far away, take the time to write them a letter instead of sending an email. I promise you, they will appreciate it infinitely more.

And when the inevitable day comes, when the powers that be or popular opinion decides that handwriting is antiquated and worthless, when they stop teaching children how to use a pencil and hand them ipads and laptops instead, I want you to teach your children yourself. At the very least, you will bond over an activity that is as much art as practical skill. And who knows? You could very well be solidifying the financial security of your family line for generations to come.

Happy Monday, everyone.

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