Cursive is going the way of long division. Arizona schools aren’t teaching handwriting anymore. Kids will still learn to print, but not handwrite.
Most schools already cut art and music, but handwriting was part of the basics, so I thought it would be spared. When I asked my friends about this, most of
them just shrugged it off. “We really don’t need it anymore. We’re all keyboarding anyway.” Yes, I know. Keyboarding. Didn’t that used to be typing? Aren’t we really laptopping and texting? I digress.
When the school systems abandoned doing “math in your head” and took up calculators, I winced, too. One of the joys of doing math in your head is that you could estimate.
Last year at this time, when rain was pouring down, I could estimate that my pool would overflow, and I calculated that my bailing with a bucket would not prevent the overflow. I had about a half hour to decide what to do. No paper required.
Without a calculator, you could make change handily by “counting it back” to the client. Now, when I occasionally hand a scanner-operator a $20 bill , a dime and a nickle for $10.14 of groceries, the checker is confused. They give me back the change, saying “You gave me a 20.” When I smilingly say, “Yes, I did, but this way you can give me back a 10 and a penny,” they have to look at the screen to check my math.
Handwriting is useful in its own right. It helps develop small muscle control, exactly at the time when small muscle control is necessary. It helps develop the concept that practice is an important part of expertise, a inconvenient, but vital, fact of life that helps us build to the concept that the end doesn’t justify the means.
Handwriting is slightly faster than printing for most people who know how to write well, and it separates words to make reading easier. Printing often lacks good letterspacing, making reading harder.
Learning handwriting encourages a practice in patience and persistence, both important skills necessary in life. With so many kinds and teens afflicted with attention deficit disorder of some kind, who are all becoming adults and entering the work force, it might be useful to know that doing something more than once improves the end result and that learning takes times and effort.
Handwriting creates a different effect in the brain than keyboarding. Handwriting, according to Virginia Berninger, an educational psychologist at the University of Washington, illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.
Handwriting helps in graphic learning–in recognizing shapes, meaning, and the sequencing of learning. As someone who keeps a journal, I know the difference in handwriting and keyboarding. Handwriting lights up the left side of the brain, helping make strong connections to right and left brain in art journaling. Writing is slower than keyboarding, making writing a mindful activity, a chance to pause and think. Are we really ready to lose those advantages to a keyboard?
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and raw art journaler. She teaches writing as a communication tool, and as an cultural artifact. Her book, Raw Art Journaling will be published in July by North Light Books.