The Disappearing Art of Handwriting

By February 10, 2017The Forum

Many times as a parent and as an elementary educator, I have been asked the question, “Does penmanship really matter?” As I considered the question and developed an apologetic, I sought answers not only from God’s Word but also from the world of science.

In this era of electronic communication, the use of handwriting is diminishing. We no longer need the handwritten word to write a paper, a letter, or even take notes in class. We send invitations and birthday cards online, with most sites able to address and mail our cards for us. Our smart phones and tablets allow us to instantly communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world. We order groceries, books, and clothing all with just a few clicks and keystrokes. I will admit that I take advantage of all these conveniences and appreciate the time savings.

But I asked myself, “What is all this convenience costing us?” While doing research, I found some very thought-provoking studies conducted by psychologists and neuroscientists that have uncovered evidence that links educational development to handwriting. These studies have shown that children’s ability to read comes more quickly and also enables them to retain more of the concepts taught. Similar studies have shown that through the handwritten word several areas of the brain are stimulated, creating a greater capacity for learning. Children that typed were found to have far less stimulation. Children were able to produce more words more quickly when writing than when using a keyboard. In an article in the New York Times by Maria Konnikova, she references work done by Dr. Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington:

Dr. Berninger goes so far as to suggest that cursive writing may train self-control ability in a way that other modes of writing do not, and some researchers argue that it may even be a path to treating dyslexia. A 2012 review suggests that cursive may be particularly effective for individuals with developmental dysgraphia — motor-control difficulties in forming letters — and that it may aid in preventing the reversal and inversion of letters.

Further research conducted in real-world classrooms indicates that students learn better when they put away their electronics and take notes by hand.

Additionally, historians contend that if children are not taught cursive, they will have increasing difficulty reading and studying the beautifully handwritten letters and documents written long ago. In this ever changing world it is imperative that we teach our children to read primary historical documents on their own.

The final and greatest argument that I want to make in favor of beautiful penmanship is that we are created in the image of God. As we look at His marvelously vast creation, we see the unmistakable evidence that He is a God of beauty and of detail. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). We need not look further than the construction of our own hands or the leaf of a tree to see our Father’s loving attention to minutely detailed form and function. Should we not then strive to do the same? Should we not give Him our very best in everything we do? Of course, the answer is “yes.” Beautiful penmanship is indeed art with a purpose and practicality that is declining in our society. Let us add a little more beauty to this world. Sit down and warm someone’s heart by sending them a beautiful handwritten note. It works for the fourth graders every time!

 

Dale Mitchell teaches 4th grade at CCS.