Saturday’s Age published a very interesting and thoughtful article by Suzy Freeman-Greene entitled The Write Stuff on the subject of teaching handwriting.
She has some very interesting thoughts such as
Florey, an American author, believes handwriting is in crisis. It’s often illegible, she told ABC radio, and in some US schools, kids are being taught something known as “keyboarding”. Studies have shown that kids master reading more easily when they write some of the words at the same time. There is, she says, a direct connection from brain to hand. But beyond fourth or fifth grade, US schools pay little attention to the quality of handwriting.
After hearing Florey, I’m mighty glad that Victorian prep students are straining over their giraffes and monkeys (though I’m not sure what they’re doing at secondary schools). But you have to wonder what this penmanship will be used for, other than filling out forms and signing credit-card receipts. Will the next generation write in diaries? (Who needs to when you can record every moment on the web?) If they no longer send love letters, will they save those heartfelt emails and flirty texts for posterity?
Handwriting began as a specialised enterprise. (Think of those medieval monks bent over illuminated manuscripts.) And maybe it will again become a rarefied activity, closer to calligraphy than a daily necessity. Today, a handwritten letter already has a rare, intimate quality.
When you pause to think about what we actually do use handwriting for today it is a sobering thought that it may well become a lost art.