This week, I found myself in a debate with some more experienced colleagues. We all waxed nostalgic for the days of neat handwriting, which they once taught in school and we all once learned in school. There were arguments for handwriting practice’s therapeutic effects on students and arguments that there’s a right way and a wrong way to form a letter.
I was alone in my insistence that the need for neat handwriting is becoming an obsolete notion given the ubiquity of computer and mobile technology. More and more, written communication occurs via the keyboard than the pencil.
I can envision a world in the future where handwriting is as necessary to humans as a pay phone is now. In my lifetime, so many tasks that could only be accomplished with a pen can now be accomplished faster and for less using modern technology. My paycheck is deposited electronically and I get an e-mail saying so. I can transfer money with a click of the mouse and can pay bills in the same way. I don’t need to buy a stamp and mail a letter because I can accomplish the same effect with e-mails. The list goes on.
Here’s the thing, though. The argument for handwriting that I found most legitimate is this: What happens when technology fails?
My immediate response was we are getting to a place where that’s becoming less and less likely.
And just because I made such a flippant and naive comment, the handwriting gods decided to conspire against me this morning when I turned on my laptop to type this blog: the damn thing is essentially dead. I got two fatal errors and now it seems it is time to invest in a new computer.
Now, I had technological backup, and I typed this blog on my iPad, but I think the point was obvious, anyway. What happens if technology fails in the future and someone has to write a paper check, mail a paper letter, or fill out a bank deposit slip?
It seems highly unlikely that we would ever find ourselves without technology for an extended period of time, and if we did, I don’t think poor handwriting would spell our civilization’s doom. But when a cell phone fails, you need a pay phone. Perhaps when a keyboard fails, you need a pen.