Laptops are great, but not if it means the end of handwriting – The Guardian

Students’ handwriting is now so rubbish that Cambridge University may allow them to use laptops in their exams instead of pen and paper. The poor examiners have been struggling to read scripts, and the students struggling to write them. And if Cambridge does it, then everybody else will probably do it, and it will be goodbye cursive writing (and presumably the end of joined-up writing lessons in schools, which are not mandatory anyway).

What a pity – back in the dark ages of my youth, writing lessons made a lovely, relaxing break from all the other gruelling lessons. You just sat there for 40 minutes making the same shapes with your Osmiroid italic pen – pointing towards 10 on the clock, fat strokes down, thin strokes up, on and on, no hurry, almost Zen – until the shapes, tails and joins reached near perfection. No memorising, problem-solving, swotting or frenzy required. Just a breathing space, physical skill, and maybe later on a better understanding and retention of lectures.

Not that I would dare criticise the wonders and usefulness of the laptop. It is probably quicker, clearer and tremendously helpful when cheating. It just seems a pity to be hurling the baby out with the bathwater, as usual. I imagine cries of Luddite here, but they had a point. Luddites petitioned parliament for help for their impoverished communities, before they started smashing machinery, but were ignored by the Tory governments, whose laissez-faire economic policy meant low pay, long hours in grim factories, starvation for the poor and huge profits for the fat cats. The Industrial Revolution was not carefully thought through. Plus ça change.

Why can’t we have old and new skills and equipment running concurrently? I notice that archaeologists near Hadrian’s Wall have recently been thrilled to find a host of Roman artefacts that showed the “rich and diverse” existences that people in the period led. Perhaps, in the distant future, visitors from another galaxy will discover our blasted planet. But far beneath the layers of ash and burned out techno trash, will they also find an ancient Osmiroid 65, and know that we too had a “rich and diverse life”?


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