Why Handwriting is Still Important in Schools

A Grade 11 Student Writes His Final Exam

I read an excellent article, “Is Handwriting Worth Saving?” in the on line magazine, Slate, and it can be found at the link here. It is a book review for the book, The Missing Ink: The Lose Art of Handwriting  by Phillip Hensher. The reviewer, Julia Turner, also recommends the book, Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey.

There is a debate in education regarding how much emphasis should be placed on the teaching of handwriting skills. With the advent of the word processor, tablets, mobile phones, and wireless internet, the need for good penmanship is disappearing. I can’t remember the last time I wrote an assignment or essay in longhand. I do often scribble notes during meetings or presentations and I still love having a notebook, but more of my time is typing and texting rather than actual writing.

How important is handwriting to our Upper School students at ISB?

It is very important in my opinion because the IB Exams and most of their formal, summative assessments are handwritten. Most importantly, the IB Exams are graded by external examiners that have no experience with our students’ handwriting. I also assume that this is also the case in university as well.

It is strange that there is this enormous emphasis on handwriting in schooling, but total lack of it in the workplace and personal lives. I see this changing in the near future as soon, all of the summative assessments will either be on line or can be completed by computer. Until that day however, as teachers, we need to have our students hone their penmanship skills, so the people grading their tests, can read their script easily.

I also feel that the teaching of handwriting should never go away from the Lower School. Children need the cognitive benefits of putting pencil to paper to learn the native language script. In looking at my own children, I see the excitement and concentration they put in when given paper and writing instruments. It is no secret that restaurants give paper and crayons to kids to keep them quiet while waiting for the food to arrive.

It will be interesting to see what happens to handwriting in a generation or two in the future.

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