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Conversations about Handwriting

• The Indiana Department of Education has decided that schoolkids in that US state no longer need to learn cursive handwriting.

Instead, they’ll get lessons in typing.

From The Telegraph:

According to a memo sent by the Department of Education to schools on April 25 they can continue to teach handwriting if they want, but children will be expected to achieve proficiency with a keyboard.

The paper reported that other school systems, including some in New York, have done the same thing.

Here’s hoping at least some schools still recognize the need for teaching handwritten communication.

• Meanwhile, a little girl in India probably wishes that her school didn’t teach handwriting.

The Indian Express reported that the 6-year-old girl was stripped naked and locked in a bathroom by a teacher upset over her poor handwriting.

The girl, a student of the Islamic school in Shahpur area, was also reportedly threatened that she would be paraded naked in the school compound if she complained about the incident.

The teacher says the episode has been blown out of proportion, but police are investigating it as a potential criminal case.


• There’s an intriguing story in the Washington Post about how the handwritten signatures of 22 million Americans vanished more than 30 years ago.

Writes Monica Hesse:

What is known is this: In June 1975, as an initiative by Pennsylvania’s Bicentennial Commission, wagon trains traveling seven different routes began making their way east, reversing the path of the United States’ westward expansion. One began in Washington state, another in Nevada, a third in Los Angeles. There was a train that snaked down from Maine and another that crept up from Orlando, each populated by a wagonmaster and a team of heady volunteers who had signed their lives away for a chance to be a part of something big and authentic. The wagons had 249 encampments and many more brief stops.

“We also had these rededication centers,” says George Ebner, who headed the 1976 commission. “There were little ladies in colonial dresses, and any Tom, Dick or Harry could come and sit in a colonial chair and sign a scroll. . . . It was a 10-by-12 stage, with the stars and the stripes and the chair and the table and the colonial lady.”

And the scrolls.

The scrolls were made and donated by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Across the top, “Pledge of Rededication” was written in big letters. Underneath was a snippet from the Declaration of Independence and a promise that signers would recommit themselves to the principles of the Founding Fathers. They were made of parchment, pleasantly rough and durable and old-fashioned-looking. Towns had big dinners to celebrate the signing of the scrolls and solemn ceremonies to present them.

She interviewed one man, now a grandfather, who practiced for days with a fountain pen and India ink when he was 14 to prepare for the signing of the scrolls.

He was told the scrolls – signed by everyone from schoolkids like him to then-President Gerald Ford – would go into a time capsule to be buried near Valley Forge.

But somehow, they disappeared. All of them.

And, they’re still lost.

• We’re beginning to see more and more feedback on how important handwriting is to brain functions, especially for kids.

This times it’s an essay called “The many healthy perks of good handwriting” running in several major US newspapers.

The piece, by Julie Deardorff of the Chicago Tribune, compiles a list of positive benefits of handwriting, as demonstrated by recent studies. Among the perks of handwriting: increased brain development, better memory and increased writing speed versus keyboards.

"For children, handwriting is extremely important. Not how well they do it, but that they do it and practice it," said Karin Harman James, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University. "Typing does not do the same thing."

It’s going to be interesting to see whether the research  can reverse the trend of ignoring handwriting skills.

One thought on “Conversations about Handwriting”

  • penemuel

    Thanks for posting this. I feel very strongly about the need to retain handwriting as a skill that is taught to kids. I love computers and the ability to type really fast, but to write something I really *feel* a lot of times I just have to put pen to paper. It's kind of soothing to me...

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