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How to type handwriting

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BARRIE, Ontario -- Longhand writing is fast becoming obsolete. Its slow but certain death is imminent, the victim of the digital age.

"There are so many children today who can't even read writing, let along write it," explained communication specialist Michael Sull.

"Our children can't read (handwriting)," confirmed Steven Pinker at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Computers have forced handwriting into pending oblivion.

According to the Pew Research Center, "generation X, Y and Z have diverged increasingly from handwriting to computers."

Pew data confirm that fully 95 per cent of teens use the Internet, almost half have smartphones and, on average, they send 60 text messages each day.

According to researcher Michael Bricks, handwriting is "an artifact of an era when we didn't do nearly all of our writing on keyboards and keypads."

As handwriting fades into history, archivist Jimmy Bryant warns "students risk being trapped in the digital age."

For decades, longhand writing was a core elementary school subject.

But handwriting is disappearing as a subject taught in classrooms, confirmed Steve Graham at Vanderbilt University.

Consequently, a generation of students has never studied handwriting.

In Ontario and Quebec, longhand writing is not included in the elementary school curriculum. The Toronto Catholic School Board hopes to have handwriting reintroduced into its classrooms. A Catholic School Board trustee said parents told her their children "can't sign their own name or read a handwritten note."

According to Kathleen Wright at Zaner-Bloser Publishing, one major problem is the new batch of teachers is a product of the digital age.

"Colleges of education have turned out a whole crop of young teachers who are unable to write or teach writing themselves," she cautioned.

Kitty Burns Florey, author of The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, has suggested that without remedial action, "a century from now, handwriting may only be legible to experts."

"Under the modernization program, an increasing amount of information is entered directly on a computer," she added.

According to Marilyn Chapman at the University of British Columbia, the decline of longhand writing in younger people is warranted.

"The argument is that keyboarding is more relevant to today's children," she explained.

Nonetheless, some efforts are taking shape to reintroduce the fading art of handwriting into classrooms.

That is because "we are decimating the curriculum," explained Morgan Polikoff at the University of Southern California.

Some 46 U.S. states have adopted the "common core standards" as a basis for determining curriculum content in their schools. Those standards do not include handwriting instruction.

Some states, however, have reintroduced handwriting in their classes, including Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. More could follow suit.

Meanwhile, a National Handwriting Day has been proposed.

"Your handwriting is unique and personal -- as important and distinctive as your fingerprints," its promoters argue.

Handwriting reflects the most personal and intimate aspects of a person's psyche, argued commentator David Harrison.

"Handwritten documents convey important cultural information that (digital documents) do not," explained Davis Schneiderman at Lake Forest College.

"When the power grid fails, and it will, pen and paper will once again rule the day," warned a recent editorial in the Indianapolis Conservative Examiner.


Robert Alison is a zoologist and freelance writer based in Barrie, Ont.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 A11


Updated on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 3:38 PM CDT: Corrects reference to children in quote.

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