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Handwritten Documents

A recent thread on how long people keep their email made me realize that I never hand-write a letter anymore.  I always want the correspondences in my contact management system.  This reminded me of this particular steaming pile of American education:

Students shirk cursive as keyboard rules in third grade
<http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/06/08/cursive.keyboard.ap/index.html>

Quote from this article:
"'The truth is, boys and girls, even if you write a lot of e-mail on the computer, you will always need to write things down on paper at some point in your life,' Boell says. 'The letters you write to people are beautiful, and they'll cherish them forever. Have any of you ever received an e-mail that you cherished?'

"The students eagerly shout, 'No!' and return to loops and curves."

Translation:
"Good morning children.  Today we're going to learn that it's much better to master anachronistic sissy-script skills rather than practical twenty-first century skills because pretty, pretty, pretty writing makes you feel warm, fuzzy and just plain yummy-nummy-good all over - even when you find that the only job you can get is washing Ivan's bathroom because Ukrainian children gained computer skills while you Americans were busy cherishing handwritten letters to your pussies.  Oh, and remember children, always dot your 'I's with the peace symbol."

Um, excuse me.  ASCII text is information; it is data.  Gibberish scrawled across a piece of paper is chiefly useful for wiping one's ass.

anon
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Nice Troll.

I actuall "forgot" how to write cursive many years ago. I do must of my handwriting with print. The only cursive I still commonly do would be my signature.

When I try to write something in cursive, I laugh at myself for having forgotten how to commonly transition from one letter to the next and I have to try hard to remember how the Q, Z, are formed.

No sense in addressing your issues on the value of handwritting. Those were just assinine statements for the most part.

Mark S
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

For several of my university courses, we were told that handwritten essays would receive a 0% mark. I hope this trend will continue.

Mind you, I'm dysgraphic, so handwritting is one of my real pet hates.

Typing is quicker, neater, more legible, easier to modify, and can be spell checked just to mention a few advantages. Why any 'educator' would prefer to teach handwritting is beyond me?

Although I do concede that handwritting still has a central role - form-filling, for example - in our society. I expect that the current trend towards electric communication will continue.

Mr Jack
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

==>I actuall "forgot" how to write cursive many years ago.

I feel your pain.

I've long since forgotten. I can remember most of the letters in their lower-case form, but I choke on the capital letters.

My problem was a legibility issue. I think it was the 3rd or 4th grade when we were required to make the switch from simple printing to cursive. By the 6th grade, all the teachers asked me to start printing again, because they couldn't read my terrible handwriting. From the 6th grade through college, all my school work was printed -- no cursive.

At college, I switched from pen/paper to a laptop. From then on it's been QWERTY all the way.

Sgt. Sausage
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The last time I wrote by hand "in anger" it was 10 years ago in a college exam, so I'm with the big grey chappy at the top of the page (the one who turns to stone in sunlight).

I think it's still important to be able to write a legible note, e.g. on a post-it, but nobody with a white collar job needs elegant handwriting anymore... better to teach the children to print and then get them onto keyboards early.

Sword's Good
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I just use print these days, although there's traces of script in it when i speed-type. But I believe the shift towards more computer usage in lower grades is shite. Literacy is important, and practicing on reading peoples handwriting is important too. The world isn't just times.

Though it does seem cursive lost its place.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>> "Nice Troll."

Not everything that's sarcastic is a troll.  I think this brings up huge issues.  Do we continue teaching outdated, irrelevant material to our children, or do we move on when technology renders topics obsolete? 

* Multiplication Tables 
* Spelling
* Handwriting
* Drafting by Hand
* Card Catalogues
* etc.

You can even extend the question into our own field.  Most developers haven't ever coded in raw machine language.  At what point did it become okay to rely on the technology of an assembler.  Most developers rarely even use assembly?  At what point did it become okay to rely on compilers?  What about IDEs?  Have we reached the point where we can rely on intelli-sense or context sensitive text highlighting or a debugger?

I say let's all just move on and keep with the times.

anon
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ah yes, outdated technologies like spelling. Why bother when you can have the sow grate spelling chequer any time?

.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I agree that more typing is a good thing.  The easier that you make it for children to 'write' a character, the easier it is for them to "move up the stack" (sorry I've been listening to too many itconversations.com interviews).  Then they can focus on sentence syntax and semantics instead.

How many of you guys worry about closed spline paths and quantization errors when you type documents?  The number of people who have to worry about that kind of stuff is really really small (and even though it's fun for some people, it's not critical to writing and understanding English).  That's essentially what little kids have to get through in order to write.

To a certain degree, I think that this is true with things like arithmetic also.  Kids ought to understand the concept of + and * just like they ought to understand the concept of '[a-zA-Z]', but there's very little value in making them master arithmeticians.  If they get the concepts, they can work everything else out from first principles if necessary.  Otherwise everybody's better off if they can speed through the tedious stuff and focus on the core problem that they're trying to understand.

Kalani
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Roman numerals.

And non-technical outlining:

I
  A
II
  A
  B

Instead of

1.1
1.2

njkayaker
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Children need pedagogic training. Multiplication, writing, recitation, etc. focus on pedagogic training for different areas; memory, eye-hand co-ordination, speech, etc.

To claim that technology has so advanced that we can by-pass these and use "time-savers" and "productivity tools", is to throw the baby out with the bath water.

For a child, learning to write by hand and memorising the 3 times table is necessary, not because he needs to write love letters and try to work out how many toffees each of your children gets, in later life, but because he needs to learn and memorise. All through your life.

KayJay
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

So, should we stil teach how to use a slide rule as part of freshman year at university? How about interpolating log tables?

There is a point at which learning the old way is an anachronism. Having said that, learning to write longhand in third grade is ok with me. If they are still at it in sixth grade, I'd have a problem.

MilesArcher
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>> "...but because he needs to learn and memorise. All through your life."

Interesting point, but I would counter with the suggestion that if we all *learned* more, and *memorized* less, we'd all be a great deal better off.

And as long as we're talking about spelling, why can't any Europeans spell 'memorize'?  ;-)

anon
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I found my handwriting got real ugly when I was learning to write Japanese. Don't know why.  My penmanship in nihongo blows too.

The best practice I had for handwriting was when I was at a police academy: everything had to be in black ink (turns out blue fades after a few years/decades) and block printed. Oh, look your honor, the police report when my client was arrested is blank (or completely illegible), I move that the charges be dismissed.

Peter
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>For a child, learning to write by hand and memorising the 3
>times table is necessary, not because he needs to write love
>letters and try to work out how many toffees each of your
>children gets, in later life, but because he needs to learn and
>memorise. All through your life.

OK, so if it's only about the importance of learning and memorization then why does it have to be the case that they learn the esoterica of cursive handwriting in particular?  Why don't we just kill two birds with one stone and get them to understand more about the rules of English syntax and the structure of sentences?

That'll fill the learning/memorization requirement and it'll give them some skill in something that's always going to be important as long as they need language (rather than a skill that's important as long as language is written by hand).

Kalani
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I'd love to see the thank-you notes and greeting cards you all send.  What, do you type them up in Outlook and print them out?  Yeah, *real* professional.  A hand-written note, even in this day and age, conveys a level of personal attention that's not present in typed messages.

Similarly, are you honestly suggesting that people don't memorize multiplication tables, just because a machine can do it for you?  What do you do when the machine isn't handy?  My computer can solve some amazing math problems, but I still consider it important that I know how to solve them myself, too.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>>Gibberish scrawled across a piece of paper is chiefly useful for wiping one's ass.

Well, there's a practical matter too -- until the day when computers are in every classroom, how are students  supposed to complete in-class essay tests unless they can write rapidly? I'm not suggesting it needs to be traditional cursive; as the article describes, using "italic" forms of regular characters is an option used by many.

I strongly believe kids (and adults) should know how to write, even if on a day to day basis they always use a keyboard. Similarly, I believe that competence in basic arithmetic like multiplication is a necessity, even though everyone will use a calculator or computer under normal circumstances.

John C.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Let me help you all understand why this might matter: aesthetics... culture... and of course, love.

One day, you may have the occasion to write a love letter.  Print looks retarded on love letters.  You can't even imagine the reaction to a hand-written, cursive love letter, especially if you can write with a crow-quill pen.  I had to learn to use one for art class way back, and since I went on to get a degree in fine art, writing with that device has proven useful in demonstrating a level of class that practically every other guy ignores; thus, that practically every high-class girl wants to find.

sir_flexalot
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>I'd love to see the thank-you notes and greeting cards you
>all send.  What, do you type them up in Outlook and print
>them out?  Yeah, *real* professional.

How much time do you spend writing thank-you notes and greeting cards in comparison with typing things?  I'd guess that the amount of text you type into JoS today outstrips the amount you write in thank-you notes over a three month period.

In any case, that's completely beside the point.  The point is not to give kids valuable typing skills (that's not particularly important either).  What's most important is getting kids to understand the syntax and semantics of language and by making it easier to get to a point where you can teach that (ie: by skipping months and months of labor intensive writing practice) the kids can cover more of what's important.

Kalani
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Staying with children, cursive writing is good to look at plus...

There are different kinds of learners. I am a visual learner. To be specific, I am a verbal-visual learner. I like prose. I read manuals. I cannot understand how to fix a hard drive onto a mobo, when shown a video (I saw a clip on a BBC show. Just could not get what he was doing). I have to read a HOWTO. My mother also is a verbal learner, but she is a verbal-auditory  learner. I cannot a give here newspaper article for her to read. It also cannot be just read out. I have understand it and then _converse_ with her before she appreciates its contents. My sister is a tactile learner. Anything and everything, she has to 'do it' before she comprehends the subject. Be it cooking or be it the operation of a linear accelerator. My other sister is also a muscular learner, she "writes" her lessons. Literally. Every paragraph she reads, she has to write it to understand it. And she has to write it _twice_.

Every single one of us has all the above learning styles (and more) to some degree or the other. And we need all of them in our daily life. But as a child, none is predominant. So by practicing writing with pen on paper, pencil on paper, chalk on slate, etc. a child is made to excercise his visual-muscular learning style.

In addition, the child gets to 'know' just how is "a",  "a". By typing, the process of generating an "a" on the screen is the same as a "q". Just press a button. But actually they are very different. This knowledge is re-inforced when a child actually draws the curves and lines to produce alphabets on paper.

Further, did I mention, cursive writing is joy to look at?

PS: *My* handwriting is autrocious. So is my typing. :-(

KayJay
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

One day you may find yourself without electricity, then a fat lot of good your uber computer typing skills will be.

Handwriting is an important skill.  Every layer on it is a leaky abstraction.  Just like assembly and C are important so is handwriting.

.net, the equivalent of MS Bob.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What's next? Should we change the way kids learn addition and substraction? Givem calculators and learn them how to type 2+2. And so we created ubermensch.

moronica
Tuesday, July 20, 2004


When you do write, cursive is a lot faster than printing.

I write a few letters to friends who don't have email. (Yes such people exist.)

I also write up notes in notebooks on projects, and print out source files to write up notes on for debugging.

just a programmer
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"PS: *My* handwriting is autrocious."

Spelling too, apparently.  :)

sgf
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Hey! I post on JoS. What did you expect?

KayJay
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>Handwriting is an important skill.

More or less important than the ability to mentally parse and evaluate a sentence?

Kalani
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Love letters. Hmm. I don't think I've ever written anything that I would consider a love letter. But, I've written some letters that someone might construe as a love letter.

Thank you notes. Nope. I've never written one of them, though I'm pretty sure my wife sends them out on my behalf on occasion.

Greeting cards. I don't do those either, but if I did, I'd use Shutterfly or some other service like my wife does for our xmas cards.

Shopping Lists. Sometimes I write them on the back of an envelope, but then again sometimes they're off the printer. If I was really cool, I'd put  it on my PDA.

MilesArcher
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I've never written in cursive. Cursive is less legible than standard and my standard hardwriting is already completely illegible - I don't see what would be gained by making it less legible.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

On the other hand, I do pack a gorgeous calligraphic hand suitable for high end wedding invitations. But that is a completely different state of mind from curvise. Calligraphy for me is the same state of mind as drawing or painting.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

How do you guys write love notes to your wives or girlfriends before leaving for work?

Email just doesn't cut it in this case.

Bill Brown
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I use handwriting a lot, mostly taking notes. And I do find writing letters a lot more human than writing emails.

Writing is a skill we should indeed exercise more.

Dino
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

-----"When you do write, cursive is a lot faster than printing."-----

Not true actually. I normally print and it's as fast as cursive.

Some years back I taught second and third grade and of course we introduced cursive in third grade, so for second grade I had to learn to write all print and then learn the Scott-Foreman style of cursive for third grade.

There is not a great deal of time involved in teaching handwriting (an hour or two a week). It is impractical to use a keyboard all the time, and also children like being able to produce something neat. You wouldn't scrap drawing class because the camera was invented a long time ago.

When somebody considers spelling and the multiplication tables to be outdated, I wonder how close to reality he is.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

>> "When somebody considers spelling and the multiplication tables to be outdated, I wonder how close to reality he is."

I do not know the times tables and somehow I managed to get a masters in Math, and one in CS.  BTW, even though I rarely remember what 7 times 9 is, I know what 9 times 5 is, and what 9 times 2 is, and I can add.

anon
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

>> even though I rarely remember what 7 times 9 is,

100 to 1, I wager you knew that when you were 7 years old. Even up till Class 10, or whatever its equivalent is in your neck of woods. Children need to know that. Only then can Adults afford to not remember that. Yes, it is not that you do not know. You just do not remember. A lot of difference.

KayJay
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

... and skills in killing sabre-toothed tigers are at a terrible level. The grade 8 pupils could not even locate one, never mind bring it down with their bare hands.

Harvey Pengwyn
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"100 to 1, I wager you knew that when you were 7 years old."

I'll take that wager. Being dyslexic but very good at maths I found it easier to calculate them on the fly than try and memorise big blocks of numbers.

Mr Jack
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Can I just confirm - in the event of power failure do you just curl up into ball and whimper? Handwriting is a skill - one that is easy to learn and is generally useful.  Yes if you're stuck in front of a computer all day it's not one you're always going to need - but surprisingly enough not everyone is. 

Finally, just to brighten your day, there a fair number of companies that look at handwriting for job applications - and if it looks like it was written by a dyslexic gibbon with parkinson's - then that's what they think you are.

a cynic writes...
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Also isn't the future according to many in pen based computing, such as PDAs and Tablet PCs. Hand writing is pretty handy there.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

.. and writing on whiteboards.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

When I play darts with people who can't do basic addition and subtraction in their head it drives me nuts. They have to sit there painstakingly subtracting 59 from 248. Or they ask me. Basic numeracy, like literacy, remains a vital skill.

Chris Welsh
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The answer there Chris, is to cheat ;-)

a cynic writes...
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I don't believe the people who say printing is as fast as cursive. That means they can't do cursive very fast.

Sorry folks, that's just the way it is.

.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"Finally, just to brighten your day, there a fair number of companies that look at handwriting for job applications - and if it looks like it was written by a dyslexic gibbon with parkinson's - then that's what they think you are. "

I don't send CVs to companies that demand handwritten applications - it's a pretty good sign that it's a company you don't want to work for. Definetly up there with dress codes.

Cursive is faster than printing but typing is faster than either and offers a whole pile of other benefits (readability, alterability, maintainability, spell-checking, etc.). I wouldn't advocate abandoning handwritting skills altogether but prioritising cursive over computer skills strikes me as positively backward.

Mr Jack
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

People in this argument appear to be forgetting the most important part of early schooling, and that is the secondary effects of what the kids are learning.  If you ignore those, then ya, you can dump a whole bunch of stuff.  However, writing by hand improves eye-hand coordination.  Spelling tests improve your vocabulary, help you read new words, and help you spell words close enough that a spellchecker will be able to guess what you mean.  Memorizing math generally means you start recognizing patterns and helps you hold multiple things in your head at once (how many variables do you keep track of when programming?).

Steamrolla
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

All the above aside, There is one more point I'd like to make with respect children. I subscribe to the theory that childhood should, first and foremost, be an end unto itself. That it also is a period of acquiring the means to become prepared for adulthood, is important and vital, but secondary.

KayJay
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

http://www.worth1000.com/cache/contest/contestcache.asp?contest_id=2508&start=1&end=10&display=photoshop

Mark S
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Ugh! Sorry about that last URL.  What I meant, more specifically was this one:

http://www.worth1000.com/view.asp?entry=99339&display=photoshop

Mark S
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Handwriting is faster than typing (and I type pretty fast). So I hand-write my shopping lists in the "draw" software of my Psion. Interesting discussion...

Markus K
Tuesday, July 27, 2004

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