Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Handwriting? Did someone say

There was an article about handwriting in the weekend paper. I read it with some interest.
I have appalling handwriting. I don't have the fine motor control necessary for good handwriting. It's a simple fact of my life and I have to accept it.
Most people do not have that excuse. I am not suggesting that they need to be writers of elegant copperplate loops and flourishes. They don't. They just need to write legibly. My writing is, usually, legible. It just looks awful. If I can write legibly then other people can.
Except that now - well are children taught to write?
My mother had beautiful writing. Her hand flowed across the page. Her writing was clear and even and wonderfully legible. She found the physical act of writing a joy. Someone in the Education Department in this state recognised that fact and my mother found herself on the "Handwriting Committee". She was not terribly impressed. She felt they were re-inventing the wheel and that the state might just as well have gone with something called "Marion Richardson".
The Senior Cat has appalling handwriting - and admits it. I used to watch him trying to write on the blackboard at school. (Yes, I am old enough to remember what a blackboard was.) He would hold the chalk so tightly it would break. Middle Cat has tried to get him to "loosen up". He can't seem to do it. These days he does almost no writing. He uses a very personalised form of shorthand for the diary he keeps...which is sad because none of us will be able to read it later. He signs his name and writes the occasional note to himself and that is it.
Not being able to write easily and well was a great frustration to me as a kitten. I wanted to write things down. I wanted to write stories down. The physical act of writing would get in the way of the ideas. It took too long. 
I can compose on a keyboard now but there is a difference between that and using a pen. Even I can recognise this difference. There is a quiet intimacy between writer and pen that does not exist between writer and keyboard. 
And there is a suggestion that people learn more, remember more, understand more when they write something down. The physical act of writing, rather than typing, seems to make connections. 
If that is true and it is also true that children are no longer being taught to write and write well then it seems to me that our ways of learning may need to change. Will they? Will learning be less efficient if it is all screen based - or whatever comes after the screen?
I had a visitor yesterday. She trained as a doctor and later went into politics. Her writing should, given the hours she has spent taking lecture notes, minutes and goodness' knows what else be appalling. It isn't copperplate but it looks neat enough and I could read it. So is it really essential to have an illegible scrawl? Is it laziness? Is it seen as the mark of a busy professional? Why do some people take pride in it?
I wonder about all of this. I don't understand it. I don't think anyone does.
But I do think children should be taught to write - and to write well. It may improve creativity.


Anonymous said...

Remember all those students lining up in first year and asking you to read Prof Greig's comments on their first contracts exam????? Me included! Chris

Sheeprustler said...

They are certainly taught in Victoria, though by the end of primary school no-one seems to care much about handwriting. I always have to fill in forms in our household because G's handwriting is illegible and execrable, but I can do neat capitals at least. And most of the time my writing is readable if not pretty.

catdownunder said...

I remember that little queue all too well Chris!
Children are taught to write in this state Judy but I wouldn't say they are taught handwriting - if you understand my meaning. I don't care about pretty (although it can be nice) but I do care about legible.

Anonymous said...

To read well, and enjoy reading, surely you must also have at least legible writing skills, not to mention being able to use correct spelling and grammar occasionally. I write myself notes, and I don't always have to read the note to remember what I should!