One of the things that would make me happy right now is receiving a decorated declaration of love in form of a handwritten letter. I have not received a handwritten letter since high school. There is an intimacy in the handwritten words. An unaltered correlation between the words and the person that wrote.
I am worried that the greatest disease of language is not the XaxaXema conundrum. It is yet to come. And it will be the inability for our kids to learn their own handwriting. In this age of the cell phone, text messaging and printed assignments, who will ever find a need for the pen in coming years? What, with machines that can listen to your voice and type for you without you lifting a finger? Why struggle curving letter B with kids while you can just teach them where to find it on the keyboard?
When we all went to kindergarten, the first thing they taught us was how to write the alphabet. Then came combining these letters to write your own name. There was nothing sweeter than learning how to curve out your name on a piece of paper. I might not have felt it back then but looking at it now, it must have felt really good-a product of my first creativity. Curving a J next to A and not Q! It was personal. After day one, I forgot. I wrote the Q as O. I forgot again. And again until I got it right. Sometimes I would mix the upper case with the lower case, even after being taught for a week. But the struggle was worthwhile. It etched in me something that a computer would never have done.
In class four, we went through it again in Dictation class. I learnt to spell without using the dictionary. I learnt how to make neat notes with my hand. The kid with the best handwriting was given the privileges of writing on the blackboard on behalf of the teacher for others to copy.
Writing by your own hand is more than just curving alphabetical letters on a piece of paper to communicate. It is about the pleasure of putting a signature of you in the words you write, not just by the way you arrange your train of thought but by the way you express them physically on paper. A sense of ownership. A result of your own craftsmanship.
I am afraid that our kids will be handed things so easily that we will deny them a chance for cognitive growth that comes with the handwriting. I have a feeling it will be handing then a gun to their minds, or turning their minds into vestigial organs, unknowingly. Writing is a way of thinking.
The word document is an easy path. I am not saying that we ought to make life difficult for our kids, but would you rather your kid becomes dependant on autocorrect and his ideas are easily arranged, not by his thinking but by a simple right-click? It is too factory-made. Thdey will never learn their flaws. They will have something perfect, but plasticised like a nose job. Eventually what you have are prisoners of autocorrect who do not know how to spell without a machine outside their own brain.
We have all used computers and we know how absentmindedly this happens. First of all, typing is so noisy! In is too interruptive. It denies us a chance to think about what we are writing. There is this disconnect between your thoughts and the things you are writing. Normally, a synchrony between the mind and what you are writing is achieved after a struggle.
But writing by the hand at such an age will hone their minds. When teachers asked us for handwritten apology letters, they did not do it because they like to see us decorate papers with our sorry. It was about thinking about what you were writing. When employers prefer handwritten application letters, it is because that handwriting says a lot about you!
I want my kids to learn their handwriting. It is a part of who they are, and it would be really sad if technology denied them that opportunity.