My 12-year old was finishing an essay tonight when he realized that he hadn't skipped lines, per his teacher's instructions. He had handwritten the essay because it was a "Type 3." Apparently there are 5 types of essays, corresponding to various levels of draft, where Type 1 is basically a free write and Type 5 is a final, published product. Unfortunately for my son, only Type 5's are designed to be typed (no pun intended), so his unskipped lines couldn't be corrected with a few mouse clicks. Remind me what century we're living in?
Don't get me wrong. I'm all about drafts and editing. We've all received more than enough papers that haven't even been spell-checked, let alone carefully proofread. I'm thrilled that this idea is being drilled into my kid's head. However, is there any possible reason why one might need to rewrite any sort of essay by hand 4 times before typing it?
I'm sure there will be a few folks out there who think I'm advocating the death of handwriting and penmanship. I'm not. Writing by hand remains a really effective method of communicating (especially if I manage to afford a new tablet!). However, I'd much rather have students focus on the content and the writing process than worry about skipping lines on a handwritten page or recopying large chunks of text that don't need editing.
Way back in the days of typewriters, it made sense to have a piece well-written and perfected before beginning the arduous process of typing, page by page. Fortunately, I don't remember those days, but I've heard stories. Now, typing a document initially should be both natural and expected. So many great tools for electronic collaboration also exist, making peer and teacher review of student work easy and seamless (and reducing time wasted on bad handwriting). These tools don't work, by the way, on handwritten pages, whether lines are skipped or not.
It's time that elementary and middle schools left these badly dated methods behind and let students use the time-saving technological tools that the rest of the civilized world has used for the last 20-30 years. Save the kids from writer's cramp and, instead, teach them how to communicate effectively in the 21st century.