Learning handwriting

G T's picture

Saw this and thought of you people and wondered what you'd have to say on the subject;
http://www.good.is/?p=8133

Is learning to handwrite important in the understanding of words and communication? or, should we now learn to touch-type from an early age?

My instant thought is that handwriting is important. Especially in making notes of ideas or phone numbers etc, but thats probably just because its how I was educated I guess.

Maybe I'll experiment with not using a pen or pencil for a week (except drawing) and just using stickies and notes (though perhaps I should buy some piece of i-phone/blackberry type technology first…)

typerror's picture

"I have yet to be convinced that making a graphite stick go in certain directions enhances intellectual development."

Heresy, idiocy the sky is falling.

Just kidding. As a calligrapher/lettering artist with both feet in the computer age I look at their opinion and just smile. I wonder if, in the future, there will be a correlation between never having picked up a graphite stick and never having gone to bed with a "good book?"

I know one thing... my kids never washed a dish with a sponge and soap. Use the dishwasher dad : )

Michael

guifa's picture

I agree with typerror except I think we're already there almost, I think it's importance will come down to things like playing board games vs video games, reading a book vs watching a movie. It'll be one of those interesting facets about something that somehow in an elite crowd might make them seem "more intellectual" but not much else.

On the other hand, as a child of the computer age, and having done school projects on computer from third grade on (hard to do handwriting journals on the computer :) ), I find quickly drawing diagrams, taking non-textual notes and other sorts of things nearly impossible on the computer, at least not at the speed needed to keep up in class or a meeting. So barring some new fancy program, I expect to see handwriting live on as a very very niche use.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

blank's picture

The failing in this piece is that rather than suggest the problem is schools obsessing over wrote memorization of proscribed forms and ideas, the problem is the subject itself, and so the subject should be discontinued. I shouldn’t be too surprised, the piece was written by an educator. But is it really that hard to look at this situation and see that it’s no more different than creating systems where students are not taught to think about history or math but to relentlessly drilled to memorize just enough factoids to pass standard tests?

John Hudson's picture

I think the author of the article is confusing the nature of the problem she and her son are facing, although the first paragraph says it all:

My son, who is in third grade, spends much of his school day struggling to learn how to form the letter “G.” Sometimes he writes it backwards. Sometimes the tail on his lowercase “T” goes the wrong way. His teachers keep telling him he may fail the state assessment standards.

The problem isn't handwriting, the problem is schools, teachers and things like state assessment standards. Most schooling is institutional child abuse, and giving up pens and pencils in favour of computers isn't going to change that.

I'd say that making a G backwards and then gradually understanding shape orientation is a pretty important developmental step: probably more important as a step than being able to write the G correctly. Of course, shape orientation can be learned in other ways, but writing letters and numbers is a good way to learn it and comes with other benefits: fine motor skills (which you don't get, for example, learning shape orientation by flipping and rotating shapes on a computer screen), and of course the ability to produce something that someone else can read, even if the only thing you have to hand is a stick of graphite. And contra what the author writes, there is lots of evidence of the importance of manual interaction in intellectual development (and for this reason it is one of the key principles of the Montessori method, which strikes me as pretty much the only humane and sane approach to education for young children).

Nick Shinn's picture

Right on, John.

**

Almost $5 billion of pens, pencils and markers are sold in the US every year.
Presumably these will be written with, although pencils are also useful for making seed-holes in soil.
This blogger's understanding of the issue is subjectively skewed, to put it politely.

Somewhat related, shouldn't doctors (who write prescriptions) be required to pass a writing exam as part of their qualifications?
How much more efficient would that make the work of pharmacists, and may even save a few lives.

dezcom's picture

Flipped and rotated letters by children are a very NORMAL sign of development and get corrected as soon as the particular child develops a bit more. It is NOTHING to be concerned about nor dreaded. Government insistence that standardized testing by means of remembering meaningless dribble has done more to dismantle education than anything. Government officials are seeking ways to "PROVE" that children are learning as much as those in other countries and force teachers to waste precious time on test preparation rather than on learning important skills. All of these tests have done is prove that kids learned more before we started testing!
Exercising the brain is an important thing to do. One of the important ways to do it is by reading and writing. Writing is a developmental process which begins slowly with numerous errors which give students something to examine and learn by doing. No wonder students today have so little initiative, they have it strangled out of them before they are 10 years old!

It isn't a matter of if we will later in life communicate by our handwriting, it is a case of learning the process of having different segments of our brain work together to do many different tasks.

ChrisL

nina's picture

"The problem isn’t handwriting, the problem is schools, teachers and things like state assessment standards."

But that doesn't rule out the question of the respective importance that should be attributed to learning handwriting, and other methods of producing letters. I see, and respect, the point that learning which way round to draw a "G" has beneficial effects besides actually learning about lettershapes, but shouldn't education also be about preparing kids for the world they live in? Meaning, get them in touch with the tools of the time as well.

For what it's worth, I learned to write (and read) with my mum's typewriter when I was about four. I don't think this harmed my understanding of words and communication at all. Quite the opposite, actually. "Look, Ma, I can press these keys here in a different order and it makes a new word!"

That said, I'm not sure the idea of trying to immediately and completely abolish handwriting is fruitful, or practicable today (though it might be soon). I'm thinking a small dose of handwriting will remain in our lives as a tool next to other tools for a while; at least as long as we don't have good enough digital tools to enable us to note down say a phone number quickly, handwriting will remain useful*. – But definitely, teach kids to type!

* And maybe voice recognition will/can be just that. But accessibility factors in here as well; not everyone will be able to afford fancy tools when they could use pen and paper.

hrant's picture

Disclaimer: I have neither read the article nor most
of the comments in this thread. Why? Well, time:

Graham, time is the most valuable thing you have - don't waste it learning something you won't need. How much will you need handwriting? What will it teach you? Do take one calligraphy class (not the same thing as handwriting) if you have some extra time, but take a bag of salt with you! Most calligraphy teachers (like most any teacher I guess) engage in self-validation to the point of deluding their students concerning the importance of their own world.

And finally, some good news:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/3103421.stm

hhp

aluminum's picture

Well, it's editorial so it's meant to stir the pot. Handwriting is essential, of course...it's a foundation skill set for us to learn the alphabet and to read.

That said, as a parent of young kids, there is some arguments for not depending on it so much. Kids are definitely typing much younger than they ever were before.

Our 7 year old has atrocious handwriting. Part of that is due to switching schools where they were mixing handwriting methods. Part of that is likely genetic. ;0) But put him in front of the computer, and he can type just fine.

So, I agree in that as soon as handwriting becomes the hurdle between the subject matter and the student absorbing it, it's time to allow for alternatives.

Quincunx's picture

I think handwriting is a very important part of our development as a child (or even as adults). I don't think it's a matter of needing it or not. It also teaches a young brain abstract thinking, hand-eye coördination, etc. I can't really explain it very well in English, but I think you get my point.

I can't imagine why someone would not want to learn how to write well. Just because the 'need' for it is becoming a less important factor? I think that's a pretty weak argument. You also don't 'need' to learn how to play the piano, but alot of people do it anyway.

I can remember I was really proud when I learned how to write somwhat readable. My first school used to teach a non-italic non-connected type of handwriting, when I switched schools the new school tought a connected-italic-like writing method, and I loved it! Now I could write in two different ways, how marvelous! This is also what sparked my interest in typography and type design.

enne_son's picture

Writing turns a disparate collection of scribbled and divergent objective-correlatives of ideas, or sounds, or syllabic primitives into a script. Hallmarks of a script are the optical-grammatical kinship and combinatorial logic of it's forms, allowing word gestalts to form. We learn writing to trick our bodies into understanding in the most visceral and enduring of ways the idea that our alphabet is a script.

bowerbird's picture

writing by hand is important.

so is learning how to draw.

and playing a musical instrument.

_and_ learning to type.

and do sudoku.

and tie knots.

and do origami.

and change your oil.

physical dexterity leads to mental dexterity.

-bowerbird

hrant's picture

> Writing turns a disparate collection of scribbled and divergent objective-
> correlatives of ideas, or sounds, or syllabic primitives into a script.

In headless chicken mode, yes. Ideally, it is thought that does this.
And this is why Hangul makes Latin look like a village idiot.

hhp

Don McCahill's picture

I think this is a situation where a parent is refusing to admit that their child is not perfect. Since the child is clearly perfect, it must be the world the child inhabits that is at fault.

Let your kid fail. They might grow a bit, if you let them outside of the cocoon of parenting you are enveloping them in.

enne_son's picture

I said: "Writing turns a disparate collection of scribbled and divergent objective correlatives of ideas, or sounds, or syllabic primitives into a script." Hrant replied: "Ideally, it is thought that does this." Hangul is his basis for this.

What's distinctive about Hangul is its intelligence as a representational system. This includes its basis in articulatory phonetics, and it's transparency to syllabic componency. However as a system of marks or strokes, according to the wikipedia.org entry on Hangul that I consulted, all Hangul letters follow the rules of Chinese calligraphy.

By the 1400s, chinese calligraphy had long become an optical-grammatically mature and combinatorially powerful script.

Writing is not the headless horseman Hrant wants to pretend it is. The problem with the latin script is not it's optical-grammatical structure, nor its combinatory arithmetic. It's its wonkiness as a representational system for the articulatorily fluid and linguistically polyglot environment it has to serve, extending it far beyond the Latin of it's birth.

Learning writing is an inculcation of the perceptual psychophysical grammatology of a script. [edited]

In Hangul the isomorphism is between the physical gestural logic of the hand in making marks, drawn feom an inherited mark-grammer, and the articulatory gestural logic of the mouth in making sounds.

hrant's picture

> Hangul is his basis for this.

No.
My basis is... thought!

> all Hangul letters follow the rules of Chinese calligraphy.

Actually, it is documented that the initial proposal consisted entirely of constructed letterforms, which -in part- attempted to visualize the speech organs, with no basis on Chinese calligraphy, or any calligraphy. It was to appease his court, which was of course infested with status-quo Chinese-language bureaucrats, that the Chinese calligraphy angle was spliced in. Without that ruse Koreans would have remained stuck.

In any case, you shouldn't conveniently forget that Hangul was invented way before the digital era! If it were invented today, King Sejong's astuteness would probably have incorporated the best of current technology.

> Writing is not the headless horseman Hrant wants to pretend it is.

Writing is not headless. People who cling to it as children are. They are afraid of leaving the house. May the gods give them the strength... or at least prevent them from dragging the rest of us down with them.

> Learning writing is an inculcation of the inner workings of a script.

For almost all scripts that's certainly true. But some of us are more interested in improvement, as opposed to simply imitating past mistakes.

The only real way to figure out how a script needs to work is to... think!

hhp

hrant's picture

Headless? A hand is not a head - don't be this:

Think With Your Brain™

hhp

G T's picture

Hrant, are you saying that you believe we should attempt to construct a new alphabet (or method of writing) to better articulate the way we think?

In fact I wonder if written language is capable of properly explaining thought (or even spoken language). Would it have to be constructed of forms that could have lots of additional marks 'bolted on' in order to express the various associations with which we make up any one thought?

hmmmmmm. Two beers and I'm talking this much rubbish.

Going back to handwriting, I must say that maybe I could type stuff on a computer, but I do enjoy the act of writing; that what I learnt as a child has become this mostly unintelligable series of lines with bumps in them…

G T's picture

Think With Your Brain™

I'd say to isolate the brain is a mistake. We think with our entire body - it shapes the way we view the world, and the way we interact with (attempt to) explain it.

enne_son's picture

Actually, it is documented... [Hrant]

Where?

hrant's picture

Graham, I don't think a fresh alphabet with some sort of collection of forms that go directly to thought is at all feasible. Above all, I like being practical. What remains very practical however is something like Legato, which throws the hand overboard (no matter how much the acolytes of GN want to distort it).

> Would it have to be constructed of forms that
> could have lots of additional marks ’bolted on’

Well, although that's not what I was thinking, I certainly believe that writing systems can be much more complex than the Latin script for example, leveraging our reading abilities better. Just like Morse Code can work, but it's not at all efficient. Chinese I don't think is too complex, and Hangul certainly isn't.

> I do enjoy the act of writing

Me too!
I like lard too; but I don't pretend it's a cornerstone of society.

> I’d say to isolate the brain is a mistake.

In fact it is impossible. But the hand does not contain any cognitive powers! One some level conclusions must be thought out, using the brain. And it does not make sense to allow the circumstantial structure of the hand/arm system (coupled to some arbitrary marking tool no less) to dictate what makes sense in terms of the functionality of reading. Unless one invokes some mystical synergy between all the parts of the body...

Anyway, I've said all this a million times before. But some people just don't want to let go - it would be no fun for them to let go, and they want to have fun. Ergo, it is not possible to administer psychotherapy via ASCII...

Peter, I forget. But it's out there, and not buried very deep. The thing is, why get hung up on a historical instance? Just because some guy did something one way or another means very little - it should not become an excuse to avoid the guidance of logic and reason.

hhp

hrant's picture

Graham, something else that's possible is to purge the Latin alphabet (or really any writing system) of anachronistic flaws (for example the modularity of b/d/p/q*), while keeping it firmly decipherable to existing readers - in effect gently reforming the structures "under the radar" of the reader. One might be tempted to think that people are free to do this at the typeface design level (which is better than nothing - certainly much better than regurgitating the "hand" mantras), but what I'm talking about entails a move into a more formal realm, arising from a concerted analysis and its application (my old Alphabet Reform shtick).

* Those who uphold chirography while striking down grid-based "constructed" design conveniently ignore that the hand imposes a grid of its own - just not a Cartesian one! Not that grid-based constructed design has much merit mind you.

hhp

peter_bain's picture

I wouldn't want to live in a world where music is only made by digital means (having been listening to lots of electronica recently). Thus, handwriting has much to commend it, and support from educators who link fine motor skills and cognitive development.

Designers and typographers who disdain handwriting on either aesthetic or technological grounds are welcome to their opinion.

typerror's picture

"something else that’s possible is to purge the Latin alphabet (or really any writing system) of anachronistic flaws (for example the modularity of b/d/p/q*), while keeping it firmly decipherable to existing readers - in effect gently reforming the structures “under the radar” of the reader. "

How would you do this Hrant?

Genuinely interested

Michael

hrant's picture

Actually I didn't mean to over-emphasize digital creation. Letterforms that are made by arranging pebbles on a beach for example can be superior to handwriting in certain ways. The point isn't to find some ideal method, but to see the flaws in every method, and not fetishize any of them. Especially useful is seeing the flaws in a method that oppressively crushes out everything else.

Developing fine motors skills can be done without creating and fostering misleading illusions of functionality; teaching kids to make letters by expanding skeletons without immediately warning them that when it comes to reading skeletons are irrelevant is a disservice to society. And cognitive development need not be impeded by cozy anachronisms - there are many ways to get kids (and adults) to think without perpetuating lies.

BTW, I don't disdain handwriting. I just think it's headed the way of cuneiform writing. One thing I do disdain however is ideological lassitude.

> How would you do this Hrant?

You might want to get a copy of "Graphic Design & Reading" (G Swanson, ed.) where my "Improving the Tool" essay can be found. The essay was also published (in English and Spanish) in an issue of tipoGrafica.

hhp

typerror's picture

Is it online Hrant?

English or Spanish is fine.

Michael

enne_son's picture

Hrant, if you were to strike out all your belittling insinuations and derogatory hyperbole there would be little left of your critique. Is the ball in my court to produce the falsifying evidence you can't or won't supply?

The consequent of my claims above is not that type design imitate writing. Hrant knows that's not what I think. Hrant knows that I'm an advocate of systematic and well-motivated norm-violation when it comes to contrast-styling in type design. I'm also open to role-architectural exploration or reconfiguration in letter-form construction to enhance divergence [edited] or when the mapping problems of the current system become too complex. Hrant and I might have different ideas of where the tipping point might lie. Maybe eventually Hangul will fill the breech after the decline of the west has continued apace. Until then, I don't really see much prospect for a wholesale retranscription from within.

The consequent of my claim above is that there are strong personal developmental and cultural historical reasons to continue / reinvigorate writing.

I challenge Hrant to show that my analysis of Legato fails to illuminate what is happening in form-analytical terms in Legato. My analysis can be found in illustrated form in the thread: What's so unique about Legato.

William Berkson's picture

An interesting question here is whether learning to form letters proficiently by hand is a helpful step to word recognition and reading. I don't know the literature on this, but I'm supposing it exists.

PublishingMojo's picture

If you live in a society that communicates with visual symbols, you need to learn how to make those symbols. Without electricity.
But if you expect people to pay you good money for work you call graphic design or typography, you need to learn more than that. You need to learn to feel the shapes of letters the way a pianist feels the keys, the way a pitcher feels the ball. You don't learn that by looking at letters, you learn it by drawing letters.
physical dexterity leads to mental dexterity.

hrant's picture

> ... there would be little left of your critique.

You're right.
I've done all I can in the past*, and I dislike repetition - I value the new; I do not celebrate the past, I build a better future (well, I try). My main motivation these days is to make sure people, especially newbies, know there are people who think that at least some of the arguments you (plural) make are hogwash. Planting this doubt is not useless - it makes people think, instead of blindly following.

* Although Typophile's search is largely useless, Google does a fine job - just append "hhp" on an appropriate set of terms.

> Is the ball in my court

I'm not playing a game; you're not my adversary.

> I don’t really see much prospect for a
> wholesale retranscription from within.

I'm not sure what you mean by "retranscription". But I certainly see an opportunity to ween people off chirography. At least people who have the luxury to be undecided; too many people are too old (ideologically). And you see an opportunity for what, reviving handwriting? Nauseating. Hey, why not revive cuneiform while you're at it?! And what would you like to see revived in the field of music, banging clubs on skulls? That must make such a uniquely human sound...

> I challenge Hrant to show that my analysis of Legato fails to
> illuminate what is happening in form-analytical terms in Legato.

No, it's OK... I haven't read much of that other thread, and anyway it doesn't even matter what Legato does - it's just an instance. What matters is the concept of what we should be doing.

I just want people to know that resistance -passionate, furious resistance- exists; that there are people who can see that the emperor has become senile, and think it's important to point that out.

hhp

enne_son's picture

"But I certainly see an opportunity to ween people off chirography. At least people who have the luxury to be undecided; too many people are too old (ideologically)." [Hrant]

Let me repeat: "The consequent of my claims above is not that type design imitate writing."

You try to ban using the pen as a reference axis in handling or gauging type from type talk. Any time you see a reference to handwriting you smell a senile chirographic rat. I try to say the rat's not in my equation.

I only think, in the context of this thread, abandoning handwriting writing is cultural suicide. Type-cultural suicide as well.

I try to make people think as well.

My concept of what we should be doing in type design is that, at least in the text-type domain, we should be exploring feature manipulation / norm-violations that promote or enhance rapid automatic visual wordform resolution in reading.

hrant's picture

> The consequent of my claims above is
> not that type design imitate writing.

We use "imitate" differently.

> I try to say the rat’s not in my equation.

But its pelt keeps you warm.

> abandoning handwriting writing is cultural suicide.

A convenient alarmism. It will happen, but not
so abruptly. However, its wholesale abandonment
is indeed overdue in the field of text face design.

Culture changes. Diseased bits hopefully fall off.

> we should be exploring ...

As long as we make sure not to leave the Old Continent eh?
Coast-hugging is dead; we need our astrolabe.

hhp

Queneau's picture

When children are young (like my niece) its not a matter of forcing the alfabet into them. They WANT to learn, they imitate letters even if they don't know their meaning yet. The get it wrong the first time, but quickly learn to get better. And the speed at which they learn and absorb things is amazing! So not learning handwriting to me is definately wrong! It's they drilling and the testing that's the problem, not the handwriting. Each kid has it's own pace to learn things, and are better in some things or worse in others. This should be taken into account when teaching them. They aren't harddrives, for chrissakes!

I cannot prove anything but I think it is essential to learn proper handwriting, because it trains the brain in a unique way (just like drawing does in it's own way). It's not just a matter of being able to decipher glyphs on a screen. Typing is also different than writing, not better or worse but different. I have nothing against teaching kids with modern tools, but this doesn't disqualify old methods. It's not a case of either/or but of and/and.

cheerio Queneau

nancy sharon collins's picture

hi guys,

this has gotten way to contentious for me but i can't help myself.

does anyone know where and what the research is on the relationship between drawing, brain function and development? i know it exists but i don't know where. i don't think its in gardner's work but if someone could direct me it would be appreciated.

an abstract expressionist painter friend and i often discuss the relationship between gestural drawing and thinking. he draws and paints and i write cursive with pencils and pens. i do this in addition to spending too much time key stroking and pushing pixels around on the computer.

i flunked spelling in elementary school and my handwriting was illegible until it became my choice to write longhand. until recently i hated both of these disciplines because i sucked at performing them, but mastering them expands my capabilities, stretches my brain and makes my communication skills more complex, useful and dynamic.

i know from personal experience that the product of my writing is different when i am on the computer and when i write a letter by hand. its this gestural thing and also that, although marks made directly on paper are not immutable, correcting, changing or altering them takes a lot more effort than in the computer. so, i think, the brain performs a different kind of editing in each mode. and both have practical applications in an increasingly digital age.

Queneau's picture

Oh... And what if you've only learned typing and the power fails, the computer crashed, the battery is dead etc. Technology is good, but it also has its limitations and dangers. One being a strong dependency on electricity, which is fine when it works, but what if it doesn't. And are kids supposed to always carry around microcomputers/keyboards to memorize stuff or write things down... I dunno... It's fine when it's one of the options available, but if it's the only one, it could get scary: The dyke breaks, everythings flooded, the powers out and you laptop is full of water, you sit there with a piece of cardboard and a pen, but you just don't know how to form the letters HELP without a proper QWERTY keyboard and a flatscreen.... :-O

Sorry to spoil the fun with my anti-technological ramblings... It's just on my mind that's all...

cheerio Queneau

nina's picture

"the product of my writing is different when i am on the computer and when i write a letter by hand."
Sure, tools influence thinking. I think it's important to see that influence is there, and to fight it back, if necessary/wanted.
We're in the middle of a paradigm/generation shift IMHO. Getting back to type design (or design in general), I personally find it much easier to produce good design, smooth curves &c. on screen than with a pen on paper. On the other hand, many of my colleagues still believe there is some sort of brain—hand expressway. Both views coexist – the medial landscape *is* shifting.
I wonder how long a majority will cling to the "old" ways.

"and both have practical applications in an increasingly digital age."
Are you sure there's more practicality in this statement than nostalgia?

hrant's picture

> They WANT to learn

Yes, but it's our responsibility to teach them the best things.
Their time and attention -like everybody else's- is limited.

Nancy, drawing is awesome! But when it comes to "visible language" we give it way too much importance - for some people it becomes a pseudo-religion. It's comical to picture the not-too-distance past -and the not-too-distant future- where people did -and will do- just fine without authoring visible language by hand. In the future they will look back at us and laugh, just like we now laugh at pre-decimal counting systems, or pushing sticks into mud to remember stuff.

> And what if you’ve only learned typing and the power fails

And what if the pencil breaks? I can't tell you how many times I've convinced my son to get a head start on his homework during the drive home only for him to discover that he has nothing to write with. And speaking of cars, what if you live in LA and your car stops working? Knowing to walk doesn't really help much. But frankly that line of reasoning goes nowhere.

> I personally find it much easier to produce good design,
> smooth curves &c. on screen than with a pen on paper.

And it's very telling that at the highest levels (Matthew Carter, Evert Bloemsma and others) type designers design directly onscreen. Simply because, through forward thinking and practice, they have overcome any prejudice towards the hand.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Nina: Getting back to type design (or design in general), I personally find it much easier to produce good design, smooth curves &c. on screen than with a pen on paper.

As do I, and I doubt if I am alone in practising type design as a compensation for bad handwriting. :)

As I explained to Hermann Zapf when showing him some of the diacritic letters I had made for the initial Apple version of Palatino (before Hermann and Akira decided the redraw the entire typeface from scratch), I know what the shapes should look like, but can't make them by hand with a pen in the way that he can.

But what is the skill that I am actually using when I'm designing type directly on the computer? I don't think it is a skill at moving my fingers on a trackball or cursor keys to edit bezier curves, although there is some basic manual competence involved. The skill is in looking and in understanding what I see. There is a difference of kind between the skill involved in making shapes on a computer and making shapes by hand, which has to do with the directness of the relationship between hand, tool and shape. What this means in terms of working with a pen or working with a computer is not that there is a switch between parallel but different skills -- since in the area of design the core skill, of seeing and understanding, remains the same regardless of the tool --, but whether a separate set of skills -- manual, fine motor skills, controlling a mark-making tool in direct contact with a medium -- is employed or bypassed. Or, in the case of education, whether these skills are developed at all.

enne_son's picture

Deleted, I don't want to continue in this vein.

nina's picture

"I know what the shapes should look like, but can’t make them by hand with a pen in the way that he can."
John, do I hear you. It's reassuring to hear you say that!
FWIW, when I started out designing my font, I spent about two months awkwardly sketching stuff on tracing paper that never looked right; my design process, the search for the shapes I wanted only took off once I put those sketches aside and moved to FontLab.
So I'm always bewildered when people seem to think that analogue drawing skills are some sort of sine qua non for design in general. Especially nowadays.

"The skill is in looking and in understanding what I see."
That's a very good point. Of course béziers are a tool to be learned and understood too, but one that definitely favors brainpower over physical dexterity. I hear too many from the "hand-drawing fraction" say stuff like "only the hand can produce smooth curves". Well mine can't.

Which reminds me: "physical dexterity leads to mental dexterity", as has been stated in this thread, seems… well, let's say oversimplified at the very least, if not somewhat beside the point in the digital age. If I was thinking the way I can draw, I'd have an IQ of about 50.

"What this means [is] whether a separate set of skills — manual, fine motor skills, controlling a mark-making tool in direct contact with a medium — is employed or bypassed. Or, in the case of education, whether these skills are developed at all."
So do you think they should be [to the degree that they currently are]?

phrostbyte64's picture

Obviously, some people have constant access to technology and power. They obviously have unlimited resources (ie. money) to replace both technology and power. They obviously haven't been without power for weeks at a time due to circumstances beyond their control. Every person in their world has a computer, printer and high speed internet access. Writing, therefore, is an archaic method of communication. Let's just not teach kids to write. All they need is keyboarding, right?

Reality sucks and one should always be prepared to walk in case things break down. Otherwise, you are just a boat anchor to those who can.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

...from the Fontry

hrant's picture

James, FWIW, I grew up in the Lebanese civil war - my Commodore 64 was without power for weeks at a time. And one reason I like type design is exactly because it doesn't require tons of heavy technology.

> Let’s just not teach kids to write.

No just yet, but soon.
Just like we don't teach little girls to sew anymore.

hhp

phrostbyte64's picture

good luck with that...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

...from the Fontry

bowerbird's picture

altaira said:
> “physical dexterity leads to mental dexterity”,
> as has been stated in this thread, seems… well,
> let’s say oversimplified at the very least, if not
> somewhat beside the point in the digital age.
> If I was thinking the way I can draw,
> I’d have an IQ of about 50.

nobody said physical dexterity was the _sole_ route
to mental dexterity.

and your i.q. -- to the extent there is such a thing --
is probably set by now.

but had you been _taught_ to draw as a youngster,
it might have raised your i.q. above what it is now.

one of the main sections in the i.q. test is one that
assesses ability to manipulate spatial dimensions...
(it's the one that shows drawings of pieces of paper
in various shapes, with fold-lines at certain places.)

that's why i suggested that things like origami and
knot-tying -- and even sudoku -- could be helpful...

it's also the case that _any_ form of _mastery_ can
help produce a positive mental state that can lead to
increased intellectual activity. i was reminded of this
recently when reading a post by dave winer on his blog:
> http://www.scripting.com/stories/2009/03/25/iGetIdeasWhenISki.html

dave gets ideas when he goes skiing...

-bowerbird

p.s. along a similar line, some common problems
in the learning of handwriting -- e.g., flipping letters,
either horizontally or vertically -- are also associated
with dyslexia and autism.

John Hudson's picture

Nina, my take on child development is that children should be allowed to play, and most of the skills they need in this world will be developed as a result of play: the way you played with your mother's typewriter when you were four. I do think thank tactile, manual play is of primary importance, especially for very young children: direct engagement with objects, manipulating them, making them interact, etc. Manipulating things via indirect controls, such as using a computer, is of secondary importance and something that, developmentally, follows from the first and can't be a substitute for it.

I don't think there is any point in schooling children in e.g. Spencerian penmanship -- especially not if the tool you give them to do it with is a ballpoint pen! --, but I do think it is important for children to develop the fine motor skills that will enable them to learn that form of writing, or any other form that appeals to them, when they want to do so. I think there are a lot of people in the world who would love to make calligraphy, or even simply produce everyday handwriting that gives them pleasure, but who lack fundamental motor skills and this lack will make it very, very difficult for them to obtain even competence let along excellence.

Quincunx's picture

John, very well put.

Nick Shinn's picture

Window of opportunity:
Is writing one of those skills, like speaking a foreign language, which, if one doesn't learn it when young, is much harder to acquire when older, to the extent that one never fully masters it?

BTW:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/3103421.stm

canderson's picture

This may be a bit off topic... It is rare lately that I write any thing with a pen or pencil. Even mundane notes, recipes, grocery lists are typed, so that I can save them in my computer without wasting paper. Sometimes, I need hard copy, such as the grocery list, so I might take the information with me. The side effect is that most of what I write is typeset. The zeitgeist of the near future may make paper even less necessary. I do not yet have a way to easily transfer text to my telephone, although many people do.

It seems that a child today will transition to this medium much faster than I did; probably in elementary school.

Manipulating things via indirect controls, such as using a computer, is of secondary importance and something that, developmentally, follows from the first and can’t be a substitute for it.

I'm not sure that dragging a stick across a page is that fundamentally different than pressing a button which causes the line to appear. Have we tried simply teaching a child without handwriting? Would it be a disaster?

dezcom's picture

It depends on the child. We cannot assume that there is only one way to reach every child's best means of interaction.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

It may be a good idea to acquire pen/pencil technique at an early age, as precursor to a career where a stylus and tablet are used--and there are many of these.

I wonder what percentage of graphic artists use a stylus rather than a mouse, thumbs or trackpad? I do.
A lot in the gaming and film industries.

Wacom: 2 million devices in use.

They teach music and sport at school, though very few become professionals in those fields.

Speaking of thumbs, if you want to argue reductive functionalism, why bother teaching the full keyboard?

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