The Unknown Future of Hand-Generated Communication, part 2

I thought for sure that there’d be a bit more debate in the wake of my most recent post about the future of cursive writing. You know, that writing “they” have now decided should be called hand-generated communication.

Since we last exchanged ideas, I have read some of the information that was presented at Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit, a gathering sponsored by Zaner-Bloser and the American Association of School Administrators in Washington, DC, last week. Much of what I have read reinforces the beliefs I already hold about the importance of handwriting, especially cursive handwriting (and the opinions expressed in today’s entry should not be considered those of The Mailbox, but are solely my own).

Legible, effective handwriting directly impacts not only the amount a student composes, but the resulting quality of that composition. Let’s face reality: it’s going to be a good while until our nation’s students are writing with only their fingertips on the touch-sensitive screens of their tablet computers. Heck, it’s going to be a while before there’s even a conventional computer for every student. You know what that means? Students are going to use hand-generated communication for note taking and composition for a long time to come.

According to one presentation from experts at the University of Washington in Seattle, “research shows children benefit from teaching handwriting, spelling, and composing skills in integrated fashion close in time.”

Learning hand-generated communication leads to a deepening of the thought process so essential to good composition. Good composition leads to a more fully realized knowledge of syntax, meaning, and subtext. Once you’ve got that, well, you’re really on your way, aren’t you?

Which is to say, in my opinion, that stripping away handwriting instruction in the 21st century is a boneheaded quick fix. Keyboarding is more important! They say. And I would argue that, at best, they are of equal importance. We must find time to instruct students in each when the skill is about to meet its greatest demand in a student’s academic life. Instead of going out and exchanging one for the other wholesale, isn’t it time we challenge ourselves as teachers and educators just as much as we really want to challenge our students?

While the world shrinks and time races faster, stepping back and making students’ lives easier denies that life only gets harder. Let’s give our children all the tools they need to succeed, and not just the ones we presume today are the tools they might need in some conjectured future.

Cursive: built to last. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

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