The Death of the Pen

It was in preschool that I came across the english alphabet for the first time. We had a cursive writing book with all those dotted letters on which I had to trace the pencil, so very slowly at  first, but at a higher speed later on, to learn cursive writing. It was a very difficult exercise for me, given that I didn’t have a free hand at art, then and now. But there was a purpose to this exercise at this tender age. Ii itched a writing style in to my hand.

It was somewhere around class III that we were allowed to use a pen for the first time in school. I had graduated and the feeling was good. But my writing skill was as bad as ever. The difference between a pencil and a pen is that, in a pencil you get lot of resistance while writing so you need to put in that extra effort while trying to trace a smooth letter. This helped in inducing a curve in to my hand which is unique to me. On arrival of the pen, the resistance was reduced drastically and my hand needed a longer time to restrain the occasional slip of hand and get back those curves. But eventually I did manage to get back to my dirty handwriting and managed to get through those long exam sessions with some ease.

I do remember the last time I picked up the pen to write a few coherent lines on paper. That was during the marine engineering exam that I appeared for last year. Apart from that, the notes that I take down at my office do not qualify to be called as lengthy and meaning full sentences. They are just bits and pieces of information noted down at random intervals, and won’t help me with being in touch with my hand curves. Most of my work is done on a computer, in office or at home. All it does is flatten my finger tips due to the regular strikes on keyboard.

Gist is, the pen is almost as good as dead for me. But I can live with it. I am not going to be a writer. And if I am going to be, I can do it on the computer. But what concerns me more is the news I read today. A school in Mumbai has made it mandatory for students to buy an iPad for “learning process”. Some of the parents have accepted it while some are of the feeling that it will hamper the writing abilities of their kids. The school has given an option of either buying it outright or availing a financing option.

I will not go in to the ethics of making it mandatory. I will not argue on the ethics of the school giving out “options” for mode of purchase, which I feel, should be left with financial institutions or retail establishments, not educational institutions. There is not much information about the class from which students have to buy it, or what kind of actual educational tool will it be used as. But I give voice to the concerns of those parents who contest this decision with the argument of handwriting.

How exactly are the schools going to use these tablets? Are they planning to ask students to take down the notes on their iPad instead of their notebooks. If that so, it’s a shame that the art of writing will no longer be practiced by them. Handwriting is not at all an outdated way of learning. Secondly, at the tender age, if their wrists are subjected to non-ergonomic working styles, I am afraid lots of these kids will grow with problems at their wrists. So who will teach them ergonomics with iPad? Another risk being, who will ensure that the kids are not exposed to restricted contents on the web which will be freely available on the tablet? Who will ensure that the students use it only for educational purpose instead of playing angry bird during classroom periods?

And it’s a very expensive tool for learning which I feel is not required.

On the other hand, if the schools are able to control the use of the tablets to a restricted amount of time, it will be a boon. Students will be exposed, and when I say exposed I mean in both ways, to the age of the internet at the tender age. But then, the kids who can afford such luxuries at schools, surely have been exposed to these gadgets at their homes. So where’s the need?

All said, I just hope it’s not the death of the pen.

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