Yet ANOTHER article on penmanship

Via the NCTE In-Box comes this LA Times article, “Remember Penmanship?” In many ways, this is an article a bit different from the usual lament about handwriting in some interesting ways. Among other things, here’s what I learned:

  • This article quotes a guy who identifies himself as the past president of “The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting.” What he says isn’t that interesting– you can guess. But the fact that there is such a group and these people are even holding a convention is pretty fascinating to me. There’s not much information about this convention; only that it is going to be this summer in Chicago (roadtrip?).
  • “[A] soon-to-be-published nationwide survey of primary school teachers found about 90% had received little or no formal training in how to teach penmanship.” ‘They didn’t feel they were prepared, or they had little training and it wasn’t something they particularly liked to teach,’ said Steve Graham, a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who has studied handwriting since 1979 and who conducted the survey.
  • There is some talk about the new SAT writing test and the ways in which handwriting skills (or lack thereof) figure into that. That’s a concern, but a) I think most students print (which is not what these handwriting people are talking about), and b) I suspect that very soon– in the next couple years or so– the students taking the writing portion of the SAT are going to be able to do it with a computer.
  • The article does a pretty good job of countering the handwriting “alarmists” by noting that there simply isn’t time. Having said that, I do think that students– especially younger students– are learning handwriting skills. As I type this, my third grade son is working on his homework, and a lot of that includes practicing handwriting and newly-learned cursive skills. He just finished one sheet of homework where he carefully wrote out the answers in pretty neat handwriting (I don’t think he’ll have my issues). But now he’s on to another project, and this time he’s printing the answers. When I asked him why, he told me he printed the answers with this project because he could. So, I ask, you like printing better than cursive? “Oh, yeah, of course!”

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