23 Feb 11

Is handwriting a 'dead art'?

The Voice Press Office has received a press release from Deadline News, which declares: "Head teacher calls handwriting a 'dead art'":

"THE head teacher of a private school has called for exams in Scotland to be done on iPads, declaring that handwriting is a 'dead art'. Alison Speirs attacked an 'old-fashioned' insistence on handwritten exams, which she blamed on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

"The head of Cedars School of Excellence, Greenock, has issued all pupils with iPads at a cost of £45,000 and almost all lessons are taught on the taught on the revolutionary, touchscreen computers. But the school still has to spend time and money teaching handwriting skills so that pupils can tackle traditional pen-and-paper exams. Ms Speirs believes the exam system should be redesigned so candidates can use iPads and other portable computers.

"She said: 'It's got to come eventually. Handwriting is a dead art and the exam structure is out of line with everything you do in real life. Everything we do that's old fashioned in school is to fit in with the SQA. I'm training the children here for the future. We are no longer in an industrial society. It is a digital age. It's their future, not our past.'"

"Fraser Speirs, computing teacher at the school and the mastermind behind the scheme, said the only drawback was pupils having to switch back to handwriting for exams. He said: 'The teachers in the big essay subjects are having to remind themselves to write on paper only because of the exam. It's hard enough to do a two hour exam as it is never mind if you have been used to working on an iPad. Handwriting doesn't exist in society anymore except in exams and we still have to teach it.' "

"For most people, handwriting is restricted to the occasional scribbled note."

"The SQA set their face against the introduction of iPads in exams. A spokesman said: 'There are no plans to do so and no discussions which could lead to that happening.'"

In this digital age, there is clearly a strong argument for the use of iPads or computers in exams.

However, is handwriting really a "dead art"? Is it really correct that "Handwriting doesn't exist is society anymore except in exams" or that "for most people, handwriting is restricted to the occasional scribbled note"?

Voice still receives hand-written letters and many of us still receive them at home, too.

Yes, those of us who use computers probably don't write by hand much now, but surely John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), who was also quoted in the press release, was correct to say that, while he "backed the introduction of computers in the exam hall", handwriting should not be forgotten because "It's one of the basic literacy skills that pupils are going to need".

Do you agree with Sarah Mooney, Principal of the London College of Graphology, who, according to the press release, said: "Handwriting is not only a form of social communication but it is an expression of the person's personality. We would all prefer a handwritten letter, it's an expression of life. If people were able to write fluently, they wouldn't mind writing with pen and paper. If computers were to replace handwriting it means people wouldn't be able to spell because they would be able to use spell check and even grammar check on some computers."?

If we take the argument of those who believe that handwriting is a "dead art"/ "doesn't exist in society anymore" to its logical conclusion, does that mean that future generations of children will longer be taught to write by hand at all? Will they be physically unable to write down their thoughts and messages using a pen or pencil?

Will the informative "scribbled note" for friends, family or work colleagues; the note for the milkman/paper deliverer, the minuted meeting notes, the emergency message note, the signature on a legal or financial document, all become redundant, even impossible, because we will lose our ability to write things by hand? Will historical researchers or amateur genealogists struggle to read old documents or census returns because they weren't typed? Will the autograph fade away?

Do let us know your thoughts


Article on this subject in The New York Times [www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/us/28cursive.html]

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