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.
When I read the article in the Vancouver Sun about Indiana’s latest affront to civilization I almost immediately wondered what Theodore Darymple might say about this.I must say I am a little surprised by his almost apologetic reaction. I see this ruling as another nail in the coffin of Western Civilization. Now they just have to get rid of reading and ‘rithmetic, and we can all get back to grunts and cave paintings. Oh! But maybe we are already there.
Read ‘All Must Have Prizes’ by Melanie Phillips. At one point she claims that students at a reputable university (I think it was Exeter) had to be taught cursive script because they hadn’t fully mastered it.
If you are a parent one of the best things you can do is to give them a page a day diary and a ‘special’ pen and make them – yes, MAKE them – write a daily account of their lives. I did that with my charges when I was a nanny/ au pair and it worked (although, rather disappointingly, one of them became an air hostess).
When I was taught handwriting, many years ago, the teacher had us parade past one of her pets as she created perfect letters with pen and ink, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to get most of us to hate penmanship.
Regarding illegible handwriting in a test booklet: I was required by the US Air Force to take a course in Russian history taught by a grad student as part of his duties. I was proud of myself for passing the exam while knowing almost nothing, until I became a grad student myself and realized that he passed everyone to avoid having his own teaching efforts questioned.
Keyboards for everything? –
shopping lists , protest banners, obscene writings in toilets,petitions,authorisations,kidnap notes et al
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Thank you for posting.