The other day, a Staples student talked about the SATs.
He’d done fine on the math, he said. And most of the verbal section was okay. The writing section, though, was really hard.
Why? I asked. Was the question difficult? Did the 25-minute time limit seem too short?
No, he said. He meant it literally — the writing was hard. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually written something by hand.
And, he said — as puzzled and angry as if he’d been asked to write in Chinese characters — “they made us sign our signature in cursive.” He’d forgotten how to do that — along with being “pretty unable” to read script — and worried if printing his name would invalidate his score.
Welcome to the 21st century.
Along with losing the ability to read analog watches and non-GPS maps, today’s teenagers have lost the art of handwriting. They learned their ABCs by typing, not printing, and ever since then it’s been peck peck peck (and now, thumb thumb thumb).
In class today, kids take notes on their laptops and iPads. They don’t slyly pass notes on crumpled pieces of paper; they text. Every paper they write is on the computer. Actual handwriting is as old-fashioned as fountain pens.
Child development experts have noticed the trend. They worry that youngsters who don’t write by hand miss out on developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, even patience.
Writing by hand takes time — time to think about what you’re writing. Yammering away on a keyboard is easy. And if something doesn’t sound right, you just click “delete.”
I am, of course, writing this on a computer. You should see what I’ve deleted already — actually, you won’t. But I could write this by hand if I wanted to. I even know how to use a fountain pen.
Just call me a 21st-century Renaissance Man.