Can pens be replaced?

Lata Jain

Every time I go grocery shopping, it turns into an exercise in code-breaking as I try to decipher my scribbled list.

The pen is mightier than the sword is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu. Twenty years ago, a $500 Montblanc pen was one of the most coveted and costly graduation gifts. But today, few clamor over them, much less an expensive one. It turns out they want MacBooks and iPads — new writing tools of the digital age.

lata jain

Lata Jain

One can observe the slow death of cursive writing but lately the death knell has been tolling a little louder. Keyboarding skills, however, are featured in the writing standards. If you can’t remember the last time you jotted down a hand-written note, you are not alone.

The research, commissioned by ac nelson Hyderabad, revealed that the average time since an adult last wrote by hand was 41 days. But it also found that one in three of us have not had cause to write anything ‘properly’ for more than six months. More than half of those polled admitted their handwriting had noticeably declined, with one in seven declaring they were ‘ashamed’ of their written word.

And four in ten said they relied on predictive text for spelling, with one in four regularly using abbreviations or ‘text talk’. The days of using pen and paper may be numbered – with a typical adult not having written anything for almost six weeks. The startling long-term conclusion is that future generations may end up entirely dependent on keyboards to communicate. Gone are the days of handwritten phone-books, writing reminders or noting something on the calendar, with technology now making these practices redundant for most of us.

Handwriting will always carry a sentimental value but inevitably makes way when it comes to the need to be efficient.’ The decline in handwriting quality was blamed mostly on the lack of a place for it in the average modern life, with the need to be able to reach many people and constantly edit documents quickly crucial.

When it comes to ideas and memory, the hand has a special relationship with the brain. Remember that adage; write it down so you won’t forget it? It turns out its true. If you jot down a note — and then lose it — you’ll be more likely to remember what you wrote than if you’d just tried to memorize it. Dr. Usha, child psychiatrist said that’s because handwriting requires you to execute a series of strokes to form a letter. With typing, however, you just touch a button.

But today, schools are shifting the focus to coursework in STEM– short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. With limited hours and an increased pressure to meet higher standards, teachers are emphasizing technology and tablets and less of the written word.

We miss the intimacy of letters, the nostalgia of cursive lessons in schools and the beautiful scrawl of a well-practiced signature written with a pen says Principal of Aurbindo group of institutions

Computers are not always available when we need to write so we still need to be able to write ourselves. What about compiling your last-minute grocery list, writing a note to the painter, recording a phone message, or sending a note of encouragement to your child in her lunchbox? Writing a love letter to your boyfriend? Imagine a CEO of an international company unable to write a thought when his/her Blackberry malfunctioned? Computers are a means to an end. Do we really want to rely on them as our only vehicle?

Handwriting still has a place in our lower school curriculum. Can pens ever be replaced by any electronic gadget?

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