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The Financial Express

Glory days of handwriting gone

| Updated: October 22, 2017 11:53:59


Glory days of handwriting gone

The art of handwriting is fast disappearing and will soon be treated as a matter of the past and thrown into the archives. Whether handwriting should be allowed to decline and gradually fade into oblivion or not is an issue that is being debated around the world.
Disappearance of handwriting is considered by some a sign of declining civilisation. Looking back into the history of handwriting we find that there have been cursive scripts since the beginning of writing. The Egyptians invented one of the first, demotic, which allowed scribes to take notes on business transactions and Pharaonic laws faster than they could using hieroglyphics.
Pragmatically speaking, the purpose was expediency. Not without having to lift pen from paper, writers can make more words per minute. Indeed, the desire to write faster has driven innovations throughout history and handwriting is an inevitable victim of changed circumstances. 
Besides, there are many who are of the view that if the goal of public education is to prepare students to become successful, employable adults, typing is inarguably more useful than handwriting. There are a few occasions when handwriting is a necessity and instances will be fewer in days to come.
On the other hand, some experts argue that handwriting offers children neurological benefits. Professor Virginia Berninger of the University of Washington says that "handwriting - forming letters - engages the mind and that can help children pay attention to written language". A study of 2014 found that college students who took handwritten notes in class lectures remembered the information better than those who typed notes. But that may only indicate that the slower speed of handwriting causes students to be more selective about what they write down which implies that writing helps precision learning.
In fact, the changes brought about by the digital age may be good for writers and writing. Because they achieve automaticity quicker on the keyboard, today's third-graders may well become better writers as handwriting takes up less of their education.
Keyboards are indeed a boon for students with learning disabilities, as well as students with poor handwriting, who are graded lower than those who write neatly. This speaks volumes about the necessity of replacing handwriting by mechanical devices like computers. 
Another argument says, typing levels the playing field. We are perhaps in the most writing-happy age in human history. Most students and adults write far more on a given day than they did 10 or 20 years ago, choosing to write to one another over social media or text messages instead of talking on the phone or visiting personally. The more one writes, the better a writer one becomes.
Despite all the arguments in favour or against, handwriting will slowly become a smaller aspect of elementary school education. That will be a loss for the upholders of handwriting in education.
History is replete with similar losses. People today rarely carve words in stone, dip pens into ink or swipe platens of typewriters. The cultural values attached with handwriting will alter as they have through centuries in the past. Indeed, the desire to write faster has driven innovations throughout history. The world witnessed that ballpoint pens replaced quill pens, typewriters improved upon pens and computers appeared as a better alternative to typewriters.
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