Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In Praise of the Pen

Is hand writing a necessary 21st century skill?

Several articles extol the virtues of cursive writing and lament its decline among students.

"For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art." However, for a growing number of young people, "it is a mystery. The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell."

Indeed, the pressure in school systems is to teach to the standardized test and to prepare students for the 21st century. Consequently less time is devoted to the art.

One education professor said, "These kids are losing time where they create beauty every day."

Neurologist Frank Wilson, author of The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture, says, "Although the repetitive drills that accompany handwriting lessons seem outdated, such physical instruction will help students to succeed." His book provides evidence that these activities "stimulate brain activity, lead to increased language fluency, and aid in the development of important knowledge."

Moreover, he describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements, in particular the development of thinking and language capacities, and in "developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, the essential prerequisites for the emergence of the capable and caring individual."

The essays encourage us to think about our own language development and to what extent cursive writing should still be cultivated in the word gardens of young students.

From articles in NYT and the Atlantic.