Good penmanship

My late aunt, a Dominican sister, retired from teaching back in the sixties. I can barely remember going to visit the elementary school of which she was principal (They had a globe!) She kept up on trends in education, and years later we were talking about some aspect of it. She said the root problem was that students didn’t learn good penmanship anymore. I was dubious. It turns out the nuns were right.


5 Replies to “Good penmanship”

  1. I suspect the discipline and attention involved in having preschoolers able to form their letters has more to do with the results than penmanship in and of itself. (I know my handwriting is HORRIBLE, but I got above average marks- my parents taught us a lot of stuff, penmanship just wasn’t one of them….)

    1. It sounds like there may be a connection with fine motor skills. If that’s so, it seems like playing an instrument or doing something similar would be as beneficial.

  2. I have an slightly different theory. I suspect that hand-writing skills are predictive of how comfortable kids are with small, visual detail work like reading and writing and that this level of comfort correlates with academic success. In other words, its not that fine motor skills are directly related to academic success, but that fine motor skills and good short distance vision make academic work more comfortable for the students so it is easier for them to learn and they enjoy it more.

    1. It’s too bad the only approved way for most kids to get an education is to sit quietly at a desk doing what they’re told for twenty years, starting younger and younger, with longer and longer school days and shorter and shorter summer vacations. That’s fine when their talents and dispositions incline that way, but it seems like we’d benefit if there were more real diversity in education. As it is the system dismisses a lot of people because they don’t thrive in what’s really a pretty odd environment. Ultimately, so much the worse for the system.

      Closer to your point, maybe the older system that promoted penmanship favored one set of skills, and the current system favors a slightly different set.

      Another thing while I’m thinking of my aunt and her teaching career, and her own education in the 20s and 30s: There was far more emphasis on language, logic, articulate verbal expression, and music; far less on science and math. That won’t be an original observation, but it’s food for thought.

      1. The ability to sit still is another good example. I guess what I was getting at is that there are physical dimensions to success in scholarship. It’s not all just mental ability. People can be very intelligent and do poorly in school (I’m speaking as someone who did well in school, so this isn’t a self-serving observation).

        As to your observation about changing curricula: I managed to get to my third semester of college before I ever saw a logical break down of an argument, and then I only saw it in elective philosophy classes. This strikes me as a pretty bad record for modern education. If I ran the education system, no one would get into college without some experience in logical argumentation.

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