The Washington Post has an article about handwriting, apparently for some university entrance exams in the US 85% of students write their essays in block letters. The article claims that students who have poor writing skills demonstrate lesser ability to construct sentences – and claims that this indicates that there is a link between hand-writing and mental processes.
While the article didn’t cover the evidence in much detail I was left wondering whether there were any tests of teaching students to touch type and then assessing them on the same tests. I suspect that increasing the ability to record text in any way would increase the sentence length and the use of long words. While students who can only write slowly will have an incentive to write more briefly.
My handwriting is quite poor, I was never able to write quickly or particularly legibly and since completing university I have had little incentive to improve my writing skills. When laptops became cheap enough for me to own one (in 1998) my hand-writing skills decreased and when I started seriously using a PDA about a year ago they decreased again.
I don’t believe that my writing skills (in terms of conveying ideas and instruction to other people) have declined during this time. In fact the steadily increasing amount of writing that I have done has improved my skills a lot.
I think that children should be taught cursive writing, but it shouldn’t be regarded as especially important – or more important than touch typing! Then there’s the issue of the Dvorak keyboard. If the government wanted to improve the efficiency of the nation (which is what they claim to be doing) then maybe teaching all students touch-typing on a Dvorak keyboard and subsidising the purchase of such keyboards for everyone would be better than some of the current ideas in education. Dvorak keyboards would certainly be better than flag-poles!
News reports indicate that hand-writing skills are decreasing dramatically in Japan due to word-processors – and a significant number of students are never learning how to write any significant portion of the Japanese letters. But the sky doesn’t seem to be falling on them either.
Mark Greenaway writes about having bad hand-writing and is apparently considering some sort of remedial course. I have to wonder how good Mark’s touch-typing skills are and whether he would benefit more from improvement in that area.