Written Off

It’s happening already. Young people in the US – except for those from the better schools – can’t read cursive. It might as well be hieroglyphics or cuneiform so far as they are concerned. Those kids only recognise the letters they see on screen. Though it is rarely done, they can scribble in the type of lettering we did before we learned joined-up.

Where does it go from here? The only letters that will be understood will be those on the keyboard or on the screen. As speech recognition improves the keyboard will be discarded. No great loss. I try to avoid it myself and I’m a trained typist. Dragon Naturally Speaking, for all its many faults, points the way to the future. It will make open plan offices even noisier than they are now, with people shouting at their machines which stubbornly refuse to understand them.

It will take time but paper will begin to disappear too. The present need for hard copy will be seen as unnecessary and wasteful. BIC will go the way of Mabie Todd and if I’m still around I will be applauding. For a brief period there will be a few of us eccentric old fogeys still applying pen to paper. Most of us are pretty ancient already so we won’t bother the millennials long.

We are not far away from the brain interface. Infants will have a small routine operation which will enable much easier communication with whatever kind of computers and telephones are around. Communication become much more direct without the unnecessary step of transcription and reading.

Perhaps some basic knowledge of lettering will remain for a time for street names and shop signs. And tombstones.

9 thoughts on “Written Off

  1. So very, very premature. This sort of prognostication is almost always wrong, and way, way, off the mark, sort of like the 1939 World’s Fair “Home of the Future.” Or repeated reports of Mark Twain’s death.

    Have you considered how many countries in the world still teach (require) cursive handwriting? So we are yet again an exception, just as it is fine the we are monolingual, save for immigrants and those children of fairly recent immigrants? Compared to how many countries demand students gain familiarity with a second lanuage?

    Handwriting recognition will likely stay way ahead of speech recognition, with its attendant need for a frutratrating degree of proofing and correction, for many years to come. We are already seeing the backlash against technological answers, thankfully, in the classroom, because notes taken by keyboard simply do not and will never impact the brain anywhere as significantly as handwritten notes. So a generation suffers, while we learn the hard way in education. Many of us always knew there was no royal road. But American educators have to jump -again- on the latest bandwagon to try yet another shortcut to higher achievement.

    This is idiotic.

    1. “This is idiotic”. Isn’t that a bit insulting? I prefer not to be blatantly insulted in my blog. Perhaps you should look to your manners. You evidently have a bee in your bonnet which makes you forget normal courtesy. Your behaviour is rather sadder than my humorous prognostication.

  2. Oh, I do sincerely apologize. The comment , “This is idiotic,” was not directed at you. Not in the least! I should have made that crystal clear.

    It was my reaction to what I see daily in the college classroom after 35 years, a high percentage of students who can neither read nor write cursive, and who print like 4th graders. Yet this is not true of many or most of their European counterparts. I also missed your obvious humor, so perhaps I do have a “bee in my bonnet” from being on the front lines for years, watching the steady decline of handwriting, “penmanship” being a thing of the past. I was calling the hobby-horses of American education idiotic, for creating this mess.

    I do certainly see (now) where you might take my final remark as directed toward you, and please, rest assured it was not. Mea culpa. Please forgive my authorial clumsiness in allowing it to ever appear so. I look forward to your blog as charming, literate, and insightful, and delightful to read. The last thing I would ever wish to do is to insult you. You always come across as a perfect gentleman.

    Most sincerely, hat in hand,

      1. Oh, of course! I deduced that earlier, and in my embarrassment, forgot. Thank you, ma’am. You are indeed ever the perfect lady. My hat is doffed.


  3. History has shown that new technologies rarely completely eclipse older technologies. If we look back at communication methods over the millennia we have moved from oral traditions to written communication, to printed communication, to a blend of all those technologies in the 20th century plus adding telephonics, television and radio as new communication methods over that time. Latterly, digital technologies have come to the fore and are currently in ascendancy, but, as with all the earlier technologies the popularity and use of this new method of communication will describe an arc before settling to a lower and steadier rate of use as some new form is invented.

    Looking at the use of handwriting historically, from relatively low use, primarily among the wealthy, earlier on, it peaked sometime back in the mid twentieth century due to a combination of widespread compulsory education and better transport links and is now in the process of settling back to a lower, more normal rate of use globally. For pretty much the whole of written history handwriting has been the preserve of the few. I don’t think it will die out, it will simply become another string to our communications bow.

    1. I’m usually quite serious about pens, but when I begin to ramble about anything else, you can be fairly sure it is not to be taken too seriously. I have no idea what will happen to communication in the future and it isn’t really a matter of deep concern to me.

  4. Why so dispirited? If some people can’t read cursive, that is just the way the cookie crumbles. It does make them partially illiterate, though, which is not good for them or the U.S. as a whole. That doesn’t prevent any of us from reading or writing cursive. Before anyone pouts too much, cursive is making a comeback.

    Only half the people in the world have a computer at home, and a little less than half of the people in the world have Internet access. Letters are still a useful means of long-distance communication, and mandatory in many places. The same goes for writing information down in notebooks. In my entire life I have only known one person who used Dragon Naturally Speaking, and even then, it was just a toy. The typed word is very important and useful, as your blog clearly demonstrates. So is legible writing (and legible printing), which is why it will be around for a long time to come. The world is safe for reeding and righting in cursive! 😉

    I like the part about infants being being implanted with a brain interface. That way the parents can press the mute button when the little jokers start screaming on the airplane or in a restaurant. When they reach the terrible twos and throw a tantrum, just press the Reset button. Bedtime? Just press the Sleep button.

    1. I’m not in the least dispirited – except, in a small way, about rambling, mostly humorous articles being taken too seriously. As regards DNS, I use it daily and have done for several years. Far from being a toy, it saves my arthritic hands from too much typing and I can address my PC or dictate into a program as I walk about this room doing other things. I wouldn’t be without it!

      So I’m afraid my blog doesn’t prove your point.

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