Author Topic: If "Reading is Fundamental"...  (Read 2662 times)

Offline Calligriophile

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If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« on: June 23, 2017, 03:01:22 AM »
So, I got into a little bit of trouble at the school where I teach handwriting while we were learning the "Reading is Fundamental" lessons. I want to say, I am all for reading, but most reading I see kids doing is on computers or tablets. I'm not a prude, but it did make me wonder the following:
"If Reading is Fundamental", what does that make writing?
I ask this mainly because it seems no matter how many students seem to enjoy handwriting, even calligraphy, they all forgo writing by hand and opt for a computer. I get it, and know that is and has been the future. However, taking the definition of "Fundamental", in it's adjective form, we see the definition is "forming a necessary base or core of central importance." Fair enough.
My question, which was met with "just let it go" responses from other teachers, was simple; how can something be read if it is not first written? Should writing not be fundamental, as well?
Maybe I just enjoy seeing my students enjoy writing with fountain pens, italic (Broad edge) markers, and oblique pen holders with pointed nibs, and I want them to continue enjoying it. I know computers will make pens obsolete, but does it have to?

Offline Starlee

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2017, 07:43:59 AM »
Writing, especially in the way you are describing it, has become a hobby more than an essential daily skill. No one has had need to write with nibs since the advent of the ball point pen.  Then came typewriters and now keyboards and touch screens. People are working, with limited success so far, at eliminating typing even, and instead mentally transmit our thoughts to computers. The rate at which technology, robotics and data are amassing, I can't help but feel as though we are witnessing the dawn of that flying-car, Jetson-like future many sci-fi writers imagined. So I wonder what exactly you are lamenting: the loss of a tool or the loss of a form of communication? The decline of the amount of physical writing used as a form of communication seems inevitable as technology continues to take over our lives. But, at least composition-type writing is not dead, it is simply evolving...and not all of it seems to be for the better, but that's a different topic :S But, I just learnt yesterday from someone who works at a start-up publishing company that many of the novels submitted are from the younger generation (under 25). People today still hone their written communication skills, but instead of picking up a pen, kids and adults alike now prefer to use a keyboard. It IS faster. However, I think that at least some form of basic physical writing should still be taught as a fundamental skill because electronics are not infallible: they break, lose power, etc. And being able to sign your name or jot down a quick note or to give a birth day card are still important things to be able to do today. I guess that schools figure basic writing (not cursive) is sufficient. And I hate to say it, but they might not be wrong. However, to eliminate physical writing altogether and not have an alternative method to document thoughts seems ludicrous. Also, learning to write is an important tool for brain development. There is evidence that we learn better when we physically write information down compared to typing. If I really need to understand something, I like to bust out pen and paper to write it down: draw maps, 'play' with the information. I learn better that way compared to typing notes on a keyboard. It's not a matter of whether keyboards have to replace pen writing, it's a matter of what the population on a whole chooses to use. I am afraid we are the minority. Unless there is a mass electronic/computer failure, I think the trend of the decline of pen is inevitable and will be reserved for a sub-population of hobbyists.
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Offline Calligriophile

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2017, 07:15:47 PM »
Unfortunately, I agree with everything you stated. Im not as upset as I am reminiscent about the potential loss of beautiful penmanship used in everyday writing.
I think my upbringing has a lot to do with my appreciation of penmanship, and calligraphy. My grandmother, who couldn't scribble her name legibly, was adamant that her grandkids handwriting would be as near perfect as possible. I was in 4th grade when I suffered her wrath for poor penmanship, in 1988. After writing 40 vocab words, and definitions, she ripped them up and told me to do them again, to where she could read them. My 45 min homework turned into a 3 hour ordeal.
Now in my late 30s, I still take great pride in my penmanship, even though I know it is going obsolete.
I guess I just have a fondness for writing.

Offline Starlee

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2017, 09:29:45 AM »
Writing might be on the decline, but the great thing is that it is continues to be an advantageous skill to have, especially in the work place. A well-written thank you note still makes a lasting impression and trumps email any day :)
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Offline garyn

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2017, 02:26:59 PM »
Basic writing, even if simple block printing, is IMPORTANT.
Kids and adults won't always have a computer or their phone to record things on.
Gary

Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2017, 12:20:32 PM »
Writing might be on the decline, but the great thing is that it is continues to be an advantageous skill to have, especially in the work place. A well-written thank you note still makes a lasting impression and trumps email any day :)

The handwritten thank you note is making a huge comeback in business.  During this past year, I worked for a short time at a stationery store.  I can't tell you how many times that, as soon as the door opened in the morning, a man in a business suit came in looking lost, but determined, on a mission to buy thank you cards or blank cards that could be used as thank you cards.  They said that email, while quick, didn't stand out and if you wanted to make sure you made an impression, you needed to do something a little different and handwritten thank you notes fit the bill.  Direct marketing campaign people are also sending handwritten missives to high value potential clients.  I suspect that this trend will continue and grow larger as digital communication continues to grow and dominate everyday lives.  Therefore, being able to write clearly (both in terms of comprehension and legibility) is going to be a valuable networking skill in the future.  I dislike the idea of education being solely for the purpose of being useful in your future career, but since that is the only argument some people will accept, I think you could reasonably make the argument that having children learn and practice good handwriting will serve them well in their future careers.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline AAAndrew

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2017, 02:49:08 PM »
I was recently (last year) reading a book on the history of handwriting in the US and the author pointed out that until relatively recently in European and even early American society, many people were taught to read, but not as many people were taught to write. They were seen as separate, and not co-equal, skills. It was more important to be able to read, than to write. Only if you had to write stuff for your job, or were upper class and needed to communicate with others by letter were you taught to write. And her discussion of the connection of writing style to class and profession is also interesting. I'll have to look up that book when I get home and post the title. It is quite an interesting work.
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2017, 05:20:09 PM »
At the SF Pen Show a few years ago, I saw Michael Sull give a talk about the history of handwriting in the US.  It was pretty fascinating because he also spoke of his own experience in studying penmanship and the whole thing took on a vaguely patriotic tone when he talked about the development of Spencerian script.  Anyway, he discussed how people didn't necessarily learn how to write when they learned how to read and that learning to write and having beautiful penmanship became a way of advancing within society because it allowed you to be able to apply and be selected for better paying jobs.  It became a selling point for the schools of penmanship.  In the context of Mr. Sull's talk, it became tied in with the idea of the American dream, that you didn't have to accept whatever position you were born into in society, that you could work hard and do better than your parents ever did and that learning perfect penmanship was one way to do that.  I suppose it's a bit like the idea of going to college when your parents only had high school diplomas or going to med school when your parents only graduated college.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline garyn

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2017, 01:38:26 AM »
Elisabeth,
There is SO MUCH JUNK coming by email, that people downgrade the importance of email and skip reading "unimportant" looking email. 
The old fashioned letter become "different," and a break from the computer.
But if hand written, it MUST BE legible.
Gary

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2017, 03:26:20 PM »
I still consider writing fundamental purely from a "human" aspect as it is one of the things I believe distinguish us as personal beings.

I always found it interesting (when working in human resources), that the hand written thank you note was so esteemed. We accepted only typed resumes and typed cover letters (handwritten cover letters did not even warrant consideration). But when the interview was over, the hand written thank you added points to the candidate's consideration.

I honestly don't even know why from a technical standpoint the handwritten thank you was desired and a typed one was considered impersonal if, after all, it was a business relationship that was at stake. So while we value business tools in terms of professionalism, perhaps we still yearn for an indication of a more personal side from someone to "become part of the group."  ??? 

Will we really find it acceptable in 10 years (or less) that children (and even young adults) cannot write properly [just because they don't have to]? It has always been an earmark of the educated. Will it take less than a generation to change that? I guess we will find out. :-\
Truly, Erica
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2017, 10:39:36 AM »
I think part of the appeal of handwritten vs typed thank you notes, even in business, is the investment in time.  You have to pick out and buy the notecards or notepaper, you have to figure out what to say, if you make a mistake, you have to rewrite it, you can't use spellcheck as a crutch (unless, I suppose, you type it out and then write it), etc.  All of that takes a lot more time than typing up a thank you letter, printing it, and signing it.  And, with computers, you don't even have to know how to properly format a letter, Word will do it for you (although it does it differently than the way I was taught in my typing class from high school).  Plus, you can save the file and just tweak it a little for each thank you that you want to send, requiring even less effort.  Email is even less effort than all of that because you don't have to print, address an envelope, get a stamp, etc.  But, for a handwritten note, even if you say essentially the same thing in every thank you note your write* you still have to write it out by hand, address the envelope and mail it.  Doing something more labor intensive shows more of dedication to giving a good impression and implies that you really want the job.

*But, we all know your thank you note should not be a generic missive that could go to anyone, right?  You have to make it specific to the experience (the interview or gift or whatever) or it will fall flat and not make the best impression that it could make.
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2017, 10:51:49 AM »
So what you're saying @Elisabeth_M is that handwriting is fundamental to successfully landing a job.  ;D Am I right?  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2017, 02:51:41 PM »
So what you're saying @Elisabeth_M is that handwriting is fundamental to successfully landing a job.  ;D Am I right?  ;D

I actually do think that, although I think there are other, more important reasons to be able to write things by hand.  But (and this is a huge digression, so if we discuss it, it should probably be its own topic), US society is increasingly emphasizing idea that education exists primarily for the very practical reason of being useful to getting a job or to otherwise allow you to function as a tax-paying citizen (a sentiment that makes me physically ill because I believe education and learning is vital for us to be fulfilled human beings and having a good job, while necessary, is a only a tiny part of that fulfillment), so the argument that handwriting is necessary for getting a job is one that is most likely to carry some weight with school administrators.  In addition to saying that you need to be able to handwrite a thank you note to get a job, I would also say that older generations (ones that are likely to be in positions of power in the workplace) are pretty appalled at the fact that so many younger people can't write cursive/joined-up lettering and they are not going to be impressed with you if you turned out to be one of those kids who can't even sign their own name.

Further to that, when I was a TA in grad school, there were plenty of times that I simply gave up trying to figure out what someone was trying to tell me in an essay question on an exam and they lost points because of it.  Likewise, anyone with good penmanship made me in a much more agreeable mood and anytime I saw someone had really nice handwriting (and I actually remember this one student because he had almost perfect Palmer style penmanship and it turned out he had gone to Catholic school; that was over 10 years ago so you can see the impression it made on me), I would show other TA's and we would admire it.  You really don't want to annoy the people grading your exams because nobody is able to be completely unbiased, even if you are consciously not trying to let it affect you, it absolutely affects you.
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Offline garyn

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Re: If "Reading is Fundamental"...
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2017, 01:08:53 AM »
So what you're saying @Elisabeth_M is that handwriting is fundamental to successfully landing a job.  ;D Am I right?  ;D

Further to that, when I was a TA in grad school, there were plenty of times that I simply gave up trying to figure out what someone was trying to tell me in an essay question on an exam and they lost points because of it.  Likewise, anyone with good penmanship made me in a much more agreeable mood and anytime I saw someone had really nice handwriting (and I actually remember this one student because he had almost perfect Palmer style penmanship and it turned out he had gone to Catholic school; that was over 10 years ago so you can see the impression it made on me), I would show other TA's and we would admire it.  You really don't want to annoy the people grading your exams because nobody is able to be completely unbiased, even if you are consciously not trying to let it affect you, it absolutely affects you.

Yay, another person who understands the problem of reading bad handwriting when grading a exams.
We should trade war stories.
Gary