More about the importance of handwriting (at least in Canada)

Here’s another interesting article that appeared in Canada’s Globe and Mail about the importance of handwriting, “Is the Pen Mightier than the Keyboard?” by Margaret Philip. It is a story that features the “usual suspects” regarding the demise of handwriting, though it does include an interesting reference to a study:

Prof. [Marvin] Simner [a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario] conducted a research study a few years ago in which he compared the writing of pupils in public elementary schools in London, Ont., with that of children enrolled in private Dutch Reform schools, where handwriting and the distinct flourishes of the European-style script are still taught.

Not only was the private-school writing more legible and artfully crafted, students could write faster, producing a full sentence more than a minute faster than their public-school counterparts.

“This gets to be very important,” Prof. Simner says. “Obviously, if handwriting is slower and you’re taking notes, you’re not copying down everything that’s important. Children who are struggling with handwriting and are slower tend to forget what they want to say because their thoughts are fleeting. And that affects their grades.”

Ah, if they keep notes on a laptop, then typing speed matters a whole lot more, doesn’t it?

In any event, I don’t think it’s an “either/or” situation. My son, who is in second grade, spends a fair amount of time in his schooling working on his handwriting, including on cursive. I’m told that cursive is taken more seriously in the third grade, maybe in the fourth too. That isn’t a whole lot different than when I was a kid.

Furthermore, I recall the shift to keyboarding in junior high when I was a kid 25 years ago; I can’t remember if it was seventh or eighth grade, but I definitely remember taking typing. As I think about it now, the teaching technique for the course was bizarre. The teacher (a woman who I imagine was not exactly thrilled to be teaching five sections of typing a day every day) stood at the front of the room, standing before a raised desk with a typewriter on it. All of the students sat in rows before their electric (I think they were electric) typewriters. There were typing instruction books that stood before us like tents. “Turn to page 14,” the teacher would say. “Hands in place.” We’d put our hands in place, index fingers resting on the f and the j. “Begin,” and then we’d type whatever phrases were on that page to test our fingering.

A pretty stupid class, but I still touch-type pretty well. I can’t say the same about my current use of cursive.

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