Does handwriting matter? Philip Hensker thinks it does. It’s more intimate, he says. And it shows our personality. And after accounting for such important part of our lives, it is disappearing.
I, for one, side with Hensker’s Ph. D. supervisor who, upon being presented with a handwritten thesis, returned it unread. He was a reader and for us readers, handwriting isn’t such a great deal.
Actually, it wasn’t such a great deal for me as a writer either–from the very early stages. When I was in grade school, my handwriting skills lagged and things haven’t improved much since. Though, with laptops replacing typewriters everywhere, at least I am not punished anymore for having bad handwriting.
Schools in Poland had double desks and of course from the first grade, boys sat with boys and girls sat with girls. Except when a boy was being punished and the most diabolical punishment was to make him sit next to a girl. Other boys would pounce on such an opportunity to mock–being called “King of Women” was a great insult. (Nobody seemed to care how girls felt about being made an instrument of punishment). Having to sit next to a girl was reserved for the misdemeanor of having a messy handwriting. With girls being in general neater than boys, the idea was that a boy, by sitting next to a girl, might absorb somehow, perhaps by sheer proximity, the virtues of good penmanship.
In practice, the teacher would demand that all pupils open on their desks their notebooks with written work. She would walk up and down the classroom between the rows of desks and look for what she could criticize. She would often stop at my desk and mock my very poor handwriting by comparing it to that of the girl sitting next to me saying something like: “How come you can’t do it if she can. Look, look how neat her pages are. And yours? Ink spots, crippled letters, writing that doesn’t follow the lines on the pages. Terrible.”
I used to hate that girl with all my heart. I am ashamed to remember my happiness years later when were had to take exams that would steer us to either academic high schools or vocational schools, I learned that the girl flunked out and wouldn’t continue like most of us.