My eldest son graduated from Oxford this year. That’s not a proud mummy moment. He seemed to be born geeky and there was nothing I could do about it. The thing is, he got there and survived the whole “3000 words a week” thing even though his handwriting is really crap.
His little brother is 8. And weirdly, (even though he is left handed and his brother right handed), his handwriting is almost identical. Small, scrawny, hurried. His brain moves faster than his hand and he can’t quite keep up. This week he was told that unless his handwriting improves, he’s not going to “meet his targets” in literacy. This was said to him gravely, as if it was a BIG PROBLEM. And now he doesn’t want to write at all. Last week, he wrote a poem about a volcano. He mentioned pyroclastic flow, magma chambers, Krakatoa. But it was his handwriting that got the attention. So he doesn’t want to write a poem this week.
I wonder what happens when a child with big ideas and vocabulary to match, stops writing. When they focus on writing slowly and neatly, choosing instead smaller words that will take less time, and shorter sentences.
Shall we just get a grip? There was a reason that doctors’ handwriting used to be a joke. It is common for quick thinking people to rush their writing. And now we have word processors, it hardly matters. Do we really want to put a whole generation of children off writing altogether? Yes, of course, we should strive for good presentation, to discourage doodling and graffiti on work. Or vomit/ketchup stains. But if a piece of writing is legible who gives a monkey’s if it’s cursive? Handwriting for years has been considered indicative of personality. And like many other aspects of education, it seems that individuality, personality and creativity are to be discouraged in the pursuit of conformity. I think it’s a bit rubbish.