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MONDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Computers have not made handwriting obsolete yet

Back in the days of the typewriter, a high school teacher once told a student he could not type his book reports because "we need to practice our penmanship." That teacher's cause is now lost.

Cursive handwriting is dying, according to The Washington Post. Children start pecking on computers in kindergarten, and that becomes the preferred way to write.

Many schools give little handwriting instruction in the early grades. Among 1.5 million students submitting the SAT test's new handwritten essays in 2006, only about 15 percent used cursive. The rest printed.

Unlike that teacher of long ago, many educators are not alarmed. They have higher priorities than handwriting. Yet some academic studies have shown that children express their thoughts better if they acquire good handwriting skills at a young age. In one such study, handwriting instruction enabled first-graders to double their speed and write more complex thoughts.

If being able to record your thoughts fast leads to more profound writing, then proficient typing may be as good as handwriting or better for that purpose. Most good typists can type faster than they could ever write by hand. Maybe that's a topic for another study.

But being able to write fast by hand on paper — like the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide — is a backup skill everybody still needs for times when a computer is not available. People must have a certain proficiency in order to function in life, whether or not they produce artistic penmanship.

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