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Writing Renaissance

September 30th, 2009

pen_and_paperThis post doesn’t have much to do with Digital Strategy, but I found the topic very interesting. Two somewhat unrelated articles this week. One talks about how kids are losing their cursive writing skills. The other talks about how kids today are becoming better writers than in any other generation. Interesting corollary.

Apparently, they’re not teaching cursive handwriting much in schools anymore as more and more writing is being done on keyboards now. Kids see handwriting as something you do when you put a note on the fridge. Block letter printing does just fine for that. Using a pen for long writing is not a skill that’s deemed necessary for long term employment.

So… kids can’t write with a pen… but apparently, they can ‘write’!

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.”

Contrary to popular belief, the writing skills of the young today are blossoming. With text messaging, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other communication platforms prevalent, young people are writing more now than ever.

“It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.”

That is very true. When I was in high school, I remember many of my friends complaining (ok: I was complaining) that the essay writing that we had to do over and over again were never going to be useful again. Most would probably never write a long piece of text again until they got an email address some 10 years later.

An interesting point the article makes is that students today not only write more prolifically, but they also have a innate understanding about the audience for their writing. Unlike previous generations, these writers understand that their words will probably be transmitted for tens, hundreds, thousands of people to see and may be around forever. They also know that different forums require different levels of vocabulary and communication. Something that earlier generations would have never considered. An essay in high school was read by your teacher, and then probably trashed.

“We think of writing as either good or bad. What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.”

After hearing so much about the illiteracy of today’s generation, it was refreshing to see that we may have entered a new renaissance.

Categories: Basics
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