I tried to write a letter this week. As in I tried to pick up a pen and form letters through odd wrist motions rather than click-clicking my expression. I wasn’t even going for cursive, but I was going for legibility so I tried to form the letters carefully. My first attempt failed so I grabbed a new piece of paper and tried again. After the second sentence, my wrists hurt and my garbled sentence was barely readable and I wanted to go back and delete one of the words. I gave up. I wrote an email.
At breakfast this morning, I was reading about the costs of teachers’ failure to teach penmanship to children. Failure to write often results in reduced math and literacy skills, yet teachers are spending fewer and fewer hours per week teaching penmanship.
I can’t help but wonder about this. I did learn how to write and, given the number of diaries I found last week, I wrote plenty… until college. I learned to type in high school and by college, I went completely digital for everything except problem sets. My college diaries were digital and my assignments were typed and printed out. I can’t remember the last time that I wrote a letter by hand. The only thing that I know how to do with a pen these days is underline sentences in books, add 20% tips to credit card receipts, and scrawl my illegible signature. Once in a while, I write a few words on a stick-it and post it to my fridge as a reminder of something. But seriously, I don’t write.
My handwriting skills have decayed. My ability to communicate without editing has decayed. My patience for creating text at a rate slower than I think has decayed. Typing is fast, handwriting is slow. So is handwriting all that important? Maybe the key is to learn to write while learning to read and then happily forget how to write? Or maybe my brain has turned to all sorts of mush without me even knowing it…
(On a related note, I wonder if Brown still makes students handwrite their college applications? Boy was that a bitch. Then again, I always wondered how many students had their parents do it…)