How much do you write each day? Not on a computer, a tablet or a phone – but actually write.
Probably as teachers we write more than many people, particularly with endless mounds of marking, but for many whole days can go past without them having to write anything at all by hand.
So are we wasting precious time teaching handwriting in our schools? Are we just doing the modern equivalent of teaching pupils to ride a horse to get places, when they’ll be driving round in cars in 10 years’ time?
Even some countries are getting in on the debate. There was no requirement for cursive handwriting to be taught in the US’ Common Core State Standards which the majority of US states have signed up to. These standards claim:
“The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
So is cursive handwriting something outside that, that our pupils simply won’t need?
Surely not. I think we need to be careful about what question we’re actually asking here. If we’re asking “Are touch typing skills essential in the modern economy?” then the answer must be yes. In the knowledge economy the majority of our future workforce will be communicating via computer, and we need to enable our students to be able to communicate as effectively as possible.
Surely, here in the UK, it should be a requirement that every child can touch type by the time they leave secondary school at at least 30 words per minute?
But does that mean we should stop teaching handwriting? I don’t think so.
I think the horse and cars analogy in many ways is misleading. A better one would be mental arithmetic and calculators.
It is essential that our students learn how to use calculators, particularly to cope with particularly demanding tasks. But that doesn’t mean that even in the 21st century there won’t be a significant number of times when mental maths is an essential tool.
And we don’t stop teaching things just because it’s not used 100% of the time. Under that logic we’d wipe out whole swathes of the curriculum. We teach those skills that are going to be useful to a child in its lifetime – and ultimately from writing a birthday card to keeping a shopping list handwriting is and will remain one of those skills.
I’d love to know what you think. Either tweet me or reply below and join the debate!