It’s no secret that students and the general population are writing less and less by hand.
A quick survey of the Idea Works office found that we do less than 10% of our total writing, including papers, e-mails, notes, etc., by hand. Elementary education students spend less time than ever learning penmanship and more specifically cursive – frequently less than 10 minutes per day. A recent Time Magazine article is already mourning the death of handwriting.
Should we be worried?
The quick off-the-cuff explanation says that educators are simply replacing pen and paper with word processors; however, one quote in the Time article makes me think otherwise – “just 9% of American high school students use an in-class computer more than once a week.”
If students aren’t writing by hand in class and aren’t using a computer to write in class, then where are they writing?
A common response among educators is that students aren’t writing anywhere. Standardized testing has forced educators to teach to the test and if writing is not tested then teachers don’t teach it. No Child Left Behind dictates that most standardized tests stress math, the sciences and reading. As a result, writing has fallen by the wayside.
Penmanship is the one subject that explicitly requires students to write. As a result of penmanship’s diminished emphasis in the classroom and a lack of a substitute, students write less in elementary and secondary grade levels and their writing is of lower quality upon entry into college.
While, I am a poor defender of handwriting (my handwriting makes physicians handwriting look like Spencerian Script), I do know that being able to write well is one of the most valuable assets companies look for when hiring graduates.
If penmanship is destined to be an afterthought, I hope, as a consumer of written media, educators will find ways to continue having students practice writing.
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