When was the last time you wrote something?

The question is not rhetorical.  When was the last time you actually sat down to write something.  On paper, with a pen?  Sure, in this hustle and bustle most of us live in, we all spend our days “writing,” but that writing is almost always with a keyboard and the ink is electrons on a screen that are as tenuous as the power needed to make them appear.  But when did you write something?  Do you even remember how to write?  Not just fill in a form for a new job or for tax reporting, but a letter, written longhand.

Back in January, unknown to most, was National Handwriting Day was celebrated by Fahrney’s Pens here in Washington, DC with a little contest.  Write, longhand, on paper, a letter about one of three topics.  The winner would get a new Parker pen.  Well, I did not win, but I did enter and was a runner up on the topic of Cursive Handwriting Being Eliminated from Public Schools.

So, here is the essay I wrote, and Fahrney’s Entry is the actual submission:

Your opinion on cursive handwriting being eliminated from public schools curricula throughout the country

A report I read, not so very long ago, indicated that in the very near future, the average American would not be able to fill in a simple government form. And it was not that they could not understand the language of the form, but that their handwriting would be so bad, that even if they could fill it in, it would not be legible. And that is only the tip of a very large iceberg. For generations, people have made fun of the medical community for their handwriting, or rather their bad handwriting. And there have been as many studies done indicating that it was this poor writing that has lead to numerous medical errors.

But this is 2011 people will argue and with computer technology all around us, who needs to be able to write? I find this argument to be, well, short sighted. For example, if you have ever travelled by air to another country, you will discover that you need to fill in a form in order to enter that country, or return to the United States. And those forms are not electronic, they are paper, and you need to use ink to fill them in and they need to be legible. Many a delay is caused because the agent at the counter cannot read the document. Similarly, when applying for a job, or completing initial paperwork, most of those forms are still hard copy, requiring you to fill them out and sign them on the spot. Sloppy handwriting will only delay the implementation of your benefits

But is that enough justification to spend valuable class time learning how to properly form our letters? Education experts argue that it is not. These are the same experts that argue that recess is not required and more time needs to be spent on the basics. And I would agree, time needs to be spent on the basics, and handwriting is one of the basics. The experts focus on the formation of letters, but handwriting is so much more than just the letter. It is the flow, from letter, to word, to thought, to completed sentence. The experts do not argue, for example, that we no longer teach children how to add, or their times tables. After all there is no reason they cannot use a calculator for this simple arithmetic. But it is more than learning the number, just as writing is more than just learning the letters. Handwriting is the basis for good and proper word usage. It forces you to pay attention to what you are doing, and ensures that your thoughts are focused on the task at hand. It is much harder to be interrupted by the trivial when you are concentrating on your writing. And, at the end of the day, when it comes to communicating with our fellow human, there is nothing more powerful than the written word.