Friday, 30 October 2015

Letter perfect!

Encouraging (otherwise known as forcing) our middle granddaughter to do some Maths homework today instead of leaving it until Sunday might, just before she returns to school on Monday, I suggested that she might make an effort to improve the presentation of the work. All she needed to do was write the numbers and letters concerned with a little more care instead of being satisfied with the scrawl she put on the paper. How foolish of me! She sort of sneered at me something about that being the way she wrote and what was I going to do about it? I pointed out that it's good to take pride in whatever you do and that intelligent people usually have two writing styles: a scrawl when they write in a hurry and a neat version when they write with a little more care and attention, intended for public consumption. She didn't seem to see the need for making her work look attractive! 

In similar vein, my daughter reported on a recent parents' evening for her youngest child. His teacher was very pleased with him. He seemed to be doing really well all round, even in English, a subject I thought he might do less well in as he had been a reluctant reader to begin with and even now avoids books in favour of a screen. I commented that since the reports were good, all he really needed to do was improve his writing. When he was seven he wrote more clearly than he does now. At least that's how it seems to me. My daughter, who is now a qualified primary school teacher, after all, and supposedly knows what is what, replied that it really did not matter. When he gets to secondary school next year, any important stuff he needs to write will be word processed and so his hand-writing can be as scruffy as he likes. Really?! 

I have heard theories about the disappearing need for children to learn to write at all! Indeed some places may already have decided not to bother to do so. There are statistics that say that half of the teenagers in the UK have never written a letter in their lives. That probably does not matter. After all, most of us communicate more by email and text messages than by letter. But surely children still need to learn to write clearly and legibly. Some experts actually say that there is a link between learning to control a writing instrument properly and the ability to learn at all! 

Surely learning to write goes hand in hand with other aspects of dexterity. People who have not learnt to write might not learn to control a pencil in order to paint and draw. Are we going to lose a whole level of creativity? On a wider level, they might not learn to hold a knife and fork properly! 

I always carry a notebook around with me, just in case I need to make a note of something important. Two journalists whose articles I read today, say that if they need to remember something, they send themselves an email. Shopping lists are made on their phones. One even confessed to having difficulty signing his name as he does it so rarely! Isn't your signature one of those personal things, a mark of your individuality? Finger prints, retina identification and who knows what else will clearly replace that. So what will we do instead of asking our musical or literary idols to sign their CDs or books? Of course! We'll ask if we can do a selfie with them! 

Now, I have spoken to people about writing. I go to a writers' group and a poetry group. The general consensus seems to be that most of those I spoke to use a keyboard to write prose but they prefer pen/pencil and paper when they write poetry. Of course, most of those I spoke to are over fifty. All of them learn to write at school as I did, painstakingly copying letters of the alphabet, progressing onto what we used to call "real writing", in other words the joined up stuff, instead of printing. All of us learnt to use a keyboard later, mostly on that old-fashioned device called a typewriter. Today's children can probably use technology in some way before they ever learn to read but surely they still need to learn to write and to do so properly! 

The bottom line is that we might one day face that science-fiction scenario where all the machines stop working. Where will we be then if nobody knows how to write!

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