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Why Johnny Can't Handwrite 1356

theodp writes "Handwriting experts fear that the wild popularity of e-mail and IM, particularly among kids, could erase cursive within a few decades. With 90 percent of Americans between the ages of 5 and 17 using computers, it's not uncommon for kids to type 20-30 WPM by the time they leave elementary school. Keyboards, joysticks and cell-phone touch pads have ruined kids' ability to hold a pencil properly, let alone write legibly, says the former president of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting."
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Why Johnny Can't Handwrite

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  • Nothing Wrong... (Score:2, Informative)

    by SavSoul ( 669561 ) <savagesoul AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:04PM (#6154592) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing wrong with losing the ability to write in cursive. It is difficult to read and the only reasons later in life to use it is for taking notes, writing checks, and signing your name. I have to think for a minute when writing checks but I don't consider this a bad thing.
  • Could erase cursive? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:06PM (#6154632) Homepage
    And this is a bad thing why?

    I started using a computer about mid high school. The same semester I took a six week typing class. I have been using the keyboard about 70 WPM ever since.

    I typed everything for school that used to require handwriting. When I got into college, I did the same, but I used a computer unlike most students who used a typewriter.

    Now here we are in the 21st century and I can't handwrite worth a crap. I use a Palm OS device with graffiti regularly with decent accuracy. I can sign my name. I can block-print reasonably fast.

    But I haven't been able to write cursive since, say, about 1980. Do you know how much impact this has had on my life?

    About zip.

    We used to require people to know how to take square roots by hand, do long division, or use a slide rule. We don't require these skills anymore? Pocket calculators are everywhere, ubiqutious and disposable. (Not that I don't think it is important to get the basic concepts in grade school.) My point is that what once might have been an important skill may not be in the future.
  • Shorthand (Score:3, Informative)

    by bobKali ( 240342 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:06PM (#6154637) Homepage
    Yea, and I'll bet most kids today can read or write shorthand either.

    I remember going to a special remedial handwriting class when I was in elementary school. My teacher finally gave up and taught me how to type.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Informative)

    by potaz ( 211754 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:07PM (#6154665) Homepage
    Capital 'Q' in cursive looks like a '2'.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:08PM (#6154702) Homepage Journal
    who cares if kids can't write in cursive? I'd far rather have a kid who can touch type and doesn't know cursive rather than the opposite.

    Well, I have always been a fast typist going back to 10 years old and entertainingly, could type faster with two fingers than my junior high type teacher. Proper typing cut my wpm scores back a little, but it was beneficial to learn proper technique. However, my handwriting has always been bad and I tend to default to printing when I have to write. This could be because of my dyslexia, alternatively it could be because I was using a keyboard from the age of 9 or 10.

    To address your point though. Not having good penmanship with cursive (or printing for that matter) did not significantly hurt my ability to get into college, or graduate school or obtain consulting positions so......yeah, I guess I agree with you. There are more significant things to worry about like knowledge of mathematics, science, history and literature among other things.

  • by Nick of NSTime ( 597712 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:10PM (#6154732)
    I write in all block caps, military-style. It comes from growing up as an Army brat and then enduring a brief engineering education.

    I've found that in this "globalized" economy, clearly written English is extremely important to communicate with English-as-n > 1-language speakers. The block style eliminates confusion between letters; the letters are the same as those on a typewriter.

    Suffice it to say that I think cursive is pretty useless.

  • What's the big deal? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Methlin ( 604355 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:19PM (#6154895)
    Beyond the very few times writing in cursive is required, signatures being the only one I can think of, printing is as fast or faster and typing just plain leaves both in its dust.

    I seem to recall the existence of cursive came about because of the writing devices of the time, ink well + stylus, in which writing using a style that didn't lift the stylus reduced drips and smudges, looking "pretty" was a side effect.
  • Re:Thumbs (Score:5, Informative)

    by brianosaurus ( 48471 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @05:35PM (#6155140) Homepage
    I was addressing some envelopes yesterday. It was the first time i've written anything that someone besides myself had to read in a LONG time. Its weird how hard it is to write legibly when you're out of practice. Still my writing is plenty sufficient for emergencies and my own needs.

    I think anyone concerned with penmanship (even the word seems a bit too self-important) needs to get over it. My report cards all through elementary school showed "Needs improvement" under penmanship, but it didn't seem to affect my getting A's in everything else. I mean how bad could my writing have been if all of my teachers were able to read and grade it?
  • by tfeark ( 613275 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @06:04PM (#6155541)
    My wife learned about denelian writing when she did her student teaching this past spring. It is almost cursive writing but the letters aren't connected. The letters slant as well. Just trying to make it easier for the kids to learn cursive I guess..
  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @06:45PM (#6155953)
    What you've been told is a bunch of bullshit. For one thing, it's illegal to discriminate against someone just because they're illiterate. Hence, signing 'X' on a contract is perfectly legal, if that's how you sign your name.

    People that force you to use cursive to write your signature are just so unhappy with their lives that they need to exert what little power they have in order to get through their day.

    (This coming from someone who signs only the first initial of his first name. Hey, I signed something like 500 letters a day for several years, and it's a hard habit to break :)
  • by Yosho ( 135835 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:19PM (#6156895)
    Actually, if one believes my Japanese teacher (a native Osakan), Japan used to have a form of cursive writing, but it's all but dead. Standard block writing is practically just as fast, and with a decent Japanese input system, it's still possible to type kana and convert them to kanji in far less time than it would take to write out a series of 20-stroke kanji.

    Sure, there'll always be a niche for calligraphy, but the average person doesn't need to know how to write it -- it's the same issue here. Who really needs cursive handwriting?
  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:48PM (#6157847) Homepage
    In terms of keyboard efficiency, it's my understanding that the QWERTY keyboard is intentionally inefficient. The earliest typewriters had problems with they type bars jamming. To prevent this, the keyboard was laid out in a patter that would slow the typist down.

    Unfortunately, we are stuck with it not because it's better, but because it's what everybody uses. Just like M$ Word, VHS, and gasoline powered internal combustion engines.
  • by hippo_of_knowledge ( 445662 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @01:26AM (#6158587)
    I remember my grandfather talking about his elementary schooling. Even though he was left-handed, he was required to learn to print and write cursive with his right hand. He eventually learned it, but his writing was always borderline illegible.
  • by zavyman ( 32136 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @02:53AM (#6158869)
    (You must have a unicode character set on your computer to view this comment)

    There is a great way to type characters by how they look, not how they are pronounced, do it in five or less keystrokes, and be unique almost every time. The Chinese do this with CangJie

    æoeæ--¥ä produces æY¥
    æoeæoe produces æz--

    It's not always that easy, however.

    ç"çæå produces é
    ååoeYåç"åf produces è½
    çé£çå±± produces å...' (é£ is a special key, meaning "difficult")

    I plan on learning it over the summer. It allows you to type quickly when you are good at it, and moreover (as a bonus for students), it helps you remember how to write the characters by hand!
  • Re:Thumbs (Score:2, Informative)

    by datadictator ( 122615 ) <(gro.nraelqerid) (ta) (retnevja)> on Tuesday June 10, 2003 @04:27AM (#6159128) Homepage Journal
    There is a different view on all this. I have incredibly bad coordination at the small-muscle level. Everyone who knows me has commented on my clumsiness. Throughout my school career I was always in trouble for bad handwriting.

    I got AÂs in languages all the time, but always with the warning Âwrite legiblyÂ.
    Bugger that.
    I canÂt, I did not choose to be born like this, but I never let it stand in my way.
    My father studied electrical engineering in the early 80Âs (when I was a little boy) and back then (donÂt know about now) EE required a course in BASIC programming so we got a commmodore 64 for him to do assignments on.
    After he finished, I started toying around on it, and was soon in love with computers. By the time I was 9, I was coding in three languages. I have not written anything more complex than a post-it note by hand since I was 12, nor written anything at all in cursive (which is just stupid if you ask me) yet today I am a programmer - in charge of all developement at one of the fastest growing OSS companies in the world, earning a 5 figure salary.

    DonÂt tell me handwriting is important. It is a form elitism nothing more. What matters is being able to read and write, not the medium you do it in. LetÂs focus on increasing world literacy levels, anything else is a waste of everybodies time.
  • I have to disagree here, as I am left handed and write faster than most people I know, either in cursive or my own style (a sort of flowing print). The problem is when children are forced to learn a particular writing style and/or use a particular writing implement.

    As you will know, writing in any wet ink pen (roller ball, fountain pen, etc) is certain script death for a left hander, unless you write "correctly" by tilting the page and drawing the pen along from above the line, which is obviously slower and a lot more stressful on your muscles.

    Taught correctly and using the correct implement (such as a medium or fine ballpoint) a left hander will have no trouble pushing the pen across the page at the same speed that a right hander pulls it.

    I will conceed that currently left handers are disadvantaged because of how they have been taught in the past.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye