The Lost Art of Handwriting

Let’s be truthful here – when was the last time you sent someone a handwritten note? How often do you make notes to yourself by hand? Or, even if you do, do you transpose those to do’s or miscellaneous thoughts onto a computer?

Computers, emails, texting… Has the technical age brought the death of handwriting? Remember how exciting it was to get that letter from a pen pal when you were a kid? Do emails excite you in the same way?

In 2009, a Time Magazine article noted, “Technology is only part of the reason. A study published in the February [2009] issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology found that just 9% of American high school students use an in-class computer more than once a week. The cause of the decline in handwriting may lie not so much in computers as in standardized testing. The Federal Government’s landmark 1983 report A Nation at Risk, on the dismal state of public education, ushered in a new era of standardized assessment that has intensified since the passage in 2002 of the No Child Left Behind Act.” Apparently, with more schools teaching for the tests that are given, handwriting lacks in importance. Additionally, it also has no bearing on job performance; so again, it is no longer an emphasized skill.

Cut to just two years after the 2009 article and study noted above: A study released in October, 2011 by California-based Common Sense Media found that 53% of children ages 2 to 4 have used a computer and half of all children 8 years old and under had access to an iPad, smartphone, or similar device. By the time those kids reach high school, imagine how the number will increase on in-class computer (or other devise) use!

And forget about the looping cursive we all worked so hard to learn as kids! One of the nation’s largest educational publishers, McGraw-Hill Education, includes handwriting instruction in its major reading programs. However, there has been a decline in the sales of handwriting-only instructional materials, with an increasing focus on… guess what? Technology.  (For now, we still see some snappy calligraphy on outer envelopes of invitations but computer-generated calligraphy-look fonts are creeping into this longstanding tradition as well.)

Suffice to say, the art of letter writing is seemingly dead. Will youngsters of today come to realize the delight in having a pen pal? Will it come by way of an email? What will become of those notes passed furtively in class? Will they be relegated to texts? In the same way baby boomers watched album cover art die off with the advent of the CD and later the MP3 download, will the little pleasures once realized through penmanship translate to digital delights in generations to come?

We have all embraced new technology but let’s not forget our roots in writing. For old time’s sake, pick up your pens and pencils (if you can still find them – and heaven knows just where the pencil sharpener is anymore) and jot off a note to someone. Why not hand-address the envelope for added kicks!

4 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Handwriting

  1. Just makes me wonder in the future of everyone’s signature will just be an “X” because they do not know how to write in cursive.

  2. Anyone who thinks handwriting is going away anytime soon is dead wrong.People may not use it as much as they used to,but you better make sure you still know how to do it! For example,what about anytime you simply have to sign your name? Can’t do that with a computer can you? Or even with a texting device! And what about job applications you fill out? Can you do that with computers or texting devices? NO WAY! And what about times when you have to fill out documents? Can you use computers or texting devices then? I don’t believe so! So handwriting is not going away anytime soon — better make sure you’re still good at it! Because no question about it — you ARE going to need it!

  3. Computer or not, kids aren’t taught cursive (except in Oregon, thanks to Inga Dubay and Barbara Getty, two calligraphers who lobbied the state and school system). Most of the envelopes I receive, even from people 50+ are addressed with atrocious handwriting. The schools didn’t and aren’t doing their jobs. It’s hard to get students for calligraphy classes because, “Oh no, my handwriting’s awful.” Adults, take a calligraphy course, or a course in Italic Handwriting. You’ll be glad you did.

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