By Myra Wood Bennett
There are several of us who write for The Vienna Times. We all more than likely have our own way of how we approach our work. There is probably an assumption by us as well as readers that most if not all of us use a computer to compose our pieces. That’s the easiest way to do it, but I know at least one of us who approaches it in a way that has been proven to take more thought, ability and focus. It isn’t me; I’m using a laptop right now. But one of us writes the article by hand, with paper and pen.
It is suggested and accepted by many that “going high tech” is the way to go. Others question this and have begun to do research. Early findings suggest that when we use a keyboard there isn’t as much attachment with the brain’s thought process and writing is more abstract than when one uses pen and paper.
Parents begin to teach children ABC’s and shapes early on. Some do this with coloring books, foam letters, puzzles; in other words “hands-on.” The child picks up, holds and says what the letter or shape is. Other parents teach the same thing using the home computer. Something comes up on the screen and the toddler uses the keyboard to select an answer. The computer will then say the name of the letter, shape or color. While this seems entertaining and very up to date, research finds that the child who learns “hands-on” is better able to identify letters and shapes, whereas the computer kids have difficulty even distinguishing between letters and shapes. The research went on to find that kids who print with paper and pen learn how to read easier than those who use computers.
As Baby Boomers continue to be a large segment of our society with increasing threats of dementia, studies find as we age those who handwrite notes, journal and make lists by hand decrease the rate of their cognitive loss. For those already experiencing loss, when they increase their use of pen in hand, it not only slows loss but actually helps rebuild some cognitive abilities.
Handwriting is an expression of our personality. Signatures say something about us. Sensible people are found to have legible handwriting. Individuals with big egos many times have signatures that are not legible suggesting they don’t have time “to bother” such as doctors, executives and actors. People who sign their name using a mixture of cursive and block letters are many times uncertain people who lack confidence.
What comes to mind when you the reader learn that roughly 25% of young Americans today can not sign their name in cursive? These are not children new to our society. These are 21 year olds who were born, raised and educated in American schools. There is a concept in some schools today, what I like to call a “bad fad,” which promotes the thinking that there is no need for kids to learn how to write in cursive. The thought is that kids today will always have computers to do their writing.
When I taught I knew that students seldom wrote anything with their own hand. I would offer extra credit but would only accept it in handwriting. I began to notice difficulty that one would not expect to see in a college student. When I talked with them about their work, I found that some had never been taught to sign their name or write in cursive. Many didn’t think it was that big a deal until I explained that in American history the person who couldn’t write, or who simply made “their mark,” were people who were considered uneducated and illiterate. Well, students didn’t like being seen in that category at all. Once I got their attention, I offered to help them learn if they wanted to come by my office during office hours. Some took me up on it. There was something both endearing and at the same time odd leaning over a 19 year old, taking their hand and helping them to form letters.
A beautiful sight in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park is a place called Newspaper Rock. This is an area with one of the largest collections of petroglyphs to be found. One can stand there and literally see the handwriting on the wall, but in the future how will our children read or recognize any type of handwriting if they in fact can not write with their own hand?