Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is Good Penmanship Necessary In The 21st Century?

When you read a book by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, or any other 19th Century author, do you ever consider that every single word in that book was written by hand? 

Probably not. I know I don't. 

But if you do stop and think about sitting at your desk with just a pen and paper, and look at the volumes of work those authors produced with their own one hand, it will make your wrist and fingers ache with writer's cramp.

In Dickens's time, good handwriting was a necessity. Letters were the only way to communicate. Businesses records were all hand written. From the bills to the ledgers to the files, somebody's job was writing all that stuff down. That person had to have neat, legible handwriting, so other people could read it.

I'm sure we're all very happy that we can do our bookkeeping on computers with software that not only lets us enter the numbers, but runs the figures for us too. Likewise for sending messages via devices with keyboards. Quick, easy and you knew it was readable.

Here in North Carolina, a law was recently passed requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting. To me that shows how out of touch our state house is. My 18 year old daughter can go for days or even weeks without writing a single word on paper.

She uses her laptop for taking notes in class, (although some professors frown on this practice), doing assignments which are uploaded online, and sending messages home to her mom. No pen or paper needed.

I really believe that teaching cursive handwriting is a waste of valuable class time.

In 2014, when does anyone need to write something by hand? 

There's writing checks, but with online banking and payments, that's something that only your grandmother does.

You need to sign your name to birthday cards and Christmas cards. Still, Facebook has eliminated the need to send a card. To wish someone a happy birthday you just post on their wall.

Love letters come to mind, along with images of those precious missives tied with a ribbon and tucked away so that the recipient can read them and re-read the words her beloved has penned.

Yeah, right. These days, words of love so soft and tender come in the form of a text message.

There's writing letters home to your mother, but those come in the form of a text message as well.

I scribble out To-Do lists on scraps of paper. Aside from writing in my journal (something else that can be done with a keyboard), that's about the only time I use my handwriting skills.

For kids my daughters' age, there's an app for that. They do it all on their phones.

As someone who made straight Cs in handwriting, I'd just as soon spare other children the ordeal of trying to form the loops of each letter line upon line in workbooks, striving for perfection that few (like my older sister) ever achieve.

I say start teaching them the QWERTY keyboard. That's something they should use for years to come.

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon

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