In Defense of Handwriting

Did you know that January 23rd was National Handwriting Day? I know, it’s February 2nd, but I had a conversation with my children last night that reminded me why I think handwriting should be saved, not just with a national day but because our humanity may depend on it.

We have all see the recent Bic advertisements promoting the benefits of handwriting instruction. The point of the “Fight for your Write” is to bring to the public’s attention the importance of handwriting in the cognitive development of human beings. This move by Bic can be seen as a little self-serving, but they back up their claims with the latest neuroscientific and psychological research. And it is not just them. The September 2012 report of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) summarized the research on the benefits of cursive writing instruction that has come out in the last 10-15 years. Some of the benefits include: cognitive and motor skill development, literacy development, brain development, memory, written expression, and how it helps students with learning disabilities. On June 2, 2014, there was a NY Times article articulating how handwriting helps make learning easier, and allows us to express our thoughts more fully. The article also speaks to the negative effects that typing has on the adult brain: it impacts our ability to process new information. And finally, there is Master Penman Jake Weidmann, the youngest of the 12 master penmen in the world. He speaks in the video about his love for writing, how he sees it as an art form, and the benefits of mastering penmanship and cursive writing. His 5-minute video is well worth watching and sharing with your loved ones…especially the little ones.

Schools are moving away from handwriting instruction to typing in order to better prepare students for the computer-based Common Core tests (more on why you should opt out of those in my next post), and an as-of-yet determined technological future. All this, they say, is necessary in order to help our children become college and career ready. Although well-meaning, this is done without fully understanding what effects this shift will have on the brain and mental development of our children. Instead of drinking the VERY expensive Technology Kool-Aid – which by the way has not proven to be the magic bullet for increasing educational outcomes, let alone make children college and career ready – let’s clearly understand what handwriting helps us do: improve brain development across the lifespan, learn better, express ourselves more meaningfully, helps individuals with learning disabilities, increase attention span, and connects us to each other and our past. Now, aren’t these skills what will truly make us ready for life?