Written off

It seems that the Indiana Department of Education has taken the dubious step of eliminating handwriting from its elementary curriculum. What a sad day.

I’m sure many people can (and will) make the argument that keyboarding–which is replacing handwriting in the curriculum–is much more relevant to everyday life in today’s world. When evaluating time spent on a keyboard versus time spent with a pen in hand, I’d even agree. I don’t, however, understand why this has to be an either/or proposition. I learned both. My kids are learning both–in the same schools which are now eliminating handwriting.

I’m not against teaching–and even requiring–keyboarding skills in elementary schools; quite frankly, I’m all for it. What I am against, however, is eliminating the handwriting curriculum. A lot of good things come from picking up a pen, and we risk losing those.

  1. Handwriting is personal. It helps make or fortify connections. It’s also demonstrative. When something really matters, particularly when you want to show someone you really care, you write a note. A thank you note or a sympathy card printed in block letters, or worse yet, typed, just isn’t the same. A handwritten note takes effort, and in the absence of a face-to-face encounter, it’s often the next best thing.
  2. Handwriting, aka cursive, makes the pen-to-paper relationship easier. Its fluidity means the writer must lift her hand from the paper less often, facilitating faster, more efficient note-taking than, say, printing. And, while some people may argue that eventually students of all types will take notes on iPads, tablets, or other electronic media, I’m not completely convinced. I love every one of those tools, but I’ve found that my retention level significantly increases when I write compared to when I type. I’m just more engaged. Besides that, I’m hoping that many of those devices end up banned from meetings and similar fora, since they tend to be used for conducting other business and thus become distractions. (The latter, however, is probably better saved for another post.)
  3. Signatures. How will we handle those?

You may think my arguments are more idiosyncratic than broadly significant, but I steadfastly believe that removing the personal from our everyday interactions ultimately will not yield positive consequences. When people connect with people, things happen. The more tools we have to do this, the better.

So keep the handwriting lessons, Indiana, right alongside the keyboarding. It doesn’t have to be a trade-off.

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