Is handwriting anachronistic? The state of Indiana, no bastion of modern liberalism, seems to think so. Officials there have recently decided to eliminate the teaching of handwriting in favor of typing. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Dalrymple decries the decision because it “presage[s] a further hollowing out of the human personality, a further colonization of the human mind by the virtual at the expense of the real”, but he concedes that his reaction might be prompted by “[h]aving reached the age when pessimism is almost hard-wired into the brain”.
Edward Tenner at The Atlantic, who has studied and written about this subject, thinks Dalrymple might be overreacting a bit but agrees that “handwriting does express a healthy balance between convention and individuality” and that teaching handwriting “can be a key to a healthier approach to education and life.”
As an aside, Dalrymple mentions in the essay that his “first full-length handwritten composition” was “an eight-page account of crossing the Gobi Desert in a Rolls-Royce”. He notes that, “To my chagrin and everlasting regret, my teacher was not impressed by my formidable effort. She said that I must keep to reality and not be so imaginative.”
Surely this account was not from personal experience, so what was the source of his knowledge? Does this childhood composition still exist? Was his teacher’s reaction the impetus for a literary life devoted to non-fiction? These are obviously questions of the greatest importance.
Update: Dalrymple also wrote this very similar essay for the Express.