My Handwriting’s Crap, How ‘Bout Yours
Ever since personal computers made their way into the classroom, handwriting’s been on the way out. Many schools teach kindergartners and first graders how to print but don’t move on to cursive. Consider handwriting an increasingly obsolete art.
But research shows that writing by hand actually improves brain development. For example, Nancy Darling, psychology professor at Oberlin:
Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.
In Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains, “The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that cursive especially can energize a more fluid and coherent process of thought.”
He then goes into this doozy of an anecdote from Valerie Hotchkiss at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:
Recently, an undergraduate asked me for help with a manuscript she was studying. I assumed it was something along the lines of a medieval Latin text or perhaps even a particularly difficult Marcel Proust letter (our library holds the largest collection of Proust letters in the world), but when I bent over the letter to help, I saw that it was in English and in the very neat, clear hand of John Ruskin. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t do cursive,” answered the undergraduate.
Takeaway: Practice your chickenscratch. — Michael
Image: Some words, written using the Dakota font.