Posted in Stories

Handwriting, a Lost Art, or Victim of Technology and Common Core Standards

I have never been proud of my handwriting, I thank Bic Cristal for that. Do you remember learning to write? The endless cursive letters along wide-spaced, blue, and red lines. Who could forget the top, middle, or bottom-line rules?

Handwriting remains an important skill; handwriting and reading are interrelated. The ability to write by hand not only improves motor skills but also the ability to better generate ideas and retain information. What we write and how we write matters.

Technology seems to have ruined our handwriting ability and by default made us “dumb.” Ok, maybe not dumb, but clearly less capable. The age of mobile devices has left us unable to jot down the simplest of notes or do math in our heads (thanks Steve). A third of us can’t even read our own writing, let alone anyone else’s.

The Science of Notetaking: Writing vs Typing (Clearvue Health)

So who cares – right. Welp, lots including the National Handwriting Association (UK) established “to raise awareness of the importance of handwriting as a vital component of literacy”. In the US, there is the National Handwriting Day (created by Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association) on the 23 of January each year – the birthday of John Hancock.

In addition to the writing benefits mentioned, studies have identified a link between handwriting and information retention (learning ability). A study comparing students typing notes vs those taking handwriting notes found that handwritten note takers performed better. Handwritten notes used fewer words because the note taker was thinking about the subject matter and paraphrasing.

Sam Anderson, a staff writer for the New York Times magazine, writes by hand because it “slows him down and puts him in touch with his thoughts. Drafting by hand lowers the stakes, he said, because it doesn’t feel like “official” writing yet, which helps him avoid writer’s block.” He goes on to say that writing on a laptop presents endless opportunities for procrastination. “It’s hard to get truly quiet or focused,” he said. “Writing by hand takes away 17 million options for distraction.”

Anderson is in good company, with Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joe Hill, each handwrites the first draft of their novels. All three agree, that the process of handwriting their drafts is a more holistic practice that keeps them in touch with their writing and the story.

Since 2010, 45 states have adopted the Common Core standards, which do not require cursive instruction but leave it up to the individual states to decide whether they want to teach it. Sadly, many school system has removed cursive writing curriculums from their classrooms, arguing that in the Digital Age where even the youngest can point and click, why waste time and money teaching cursive?

Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced by technology, Instructional time is now consumed with teaching to a standardized test.” I fear that one day we will succeed in raising a generation of functional illiterates.

It appears handwriting has fallen victim to the times, to the intellectual, to the idea of progressive thought. In my humble opinion, clearly, it is a better method for teaching and a great memory aid. At work, the young people don’t understand me when I say I’m rewriting my notes…. Only time will tell if the generation of functional illiterates appears and centuries of writing are lost.

Here are some links to improving your handwriting:

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