It was great to spend some downtime visiting my family last week during the holidays. My mother must have been doing some spring cleaning before my visit because she handed me a thick manila envelope of school papers to look through – some of my elementary and middle school papers! We laughed and reminisced as we paged together through poems, crayon-shaded pictures of flowers and a bound journal of summer vacation reports from my entire 4th grade class. I marveled most when I found an imaginary magazine I compiled for my 8th grade American History class. One of the featured articles, clipped from a newspaper, described the US Postal Service’s worry that competition from electronic communication systems would render it obsolete. J.T. Ellington Jr., Senior Assistant Postmaster General, cited the imminent shift of 18 million federal employee paychecks from mailed paper documents to electronic deposit as the source of concern. I have no recollection of that piece but clearly our evolution to electronic communication has been a long and gradual one!
Just a few days later, a dear friend shared with me her young son’s frustration that he is required to work on his handwriting skills in his elementary school class. He interrupted our conversation to assert that ALL of his friends now own a smart phone of some type, and EVERYONE types out their messages online. He dramatically concluded that handwriting is clearly obsolete and certainly a waste of HIS time.
The funny thing is, I think my friend’s young son is right. We need handwriting skills now – to address envelopes, fill out paper forms, and write letters to our non-computer-literate older generation. In fact, it was priceless trying to explain to my mother last week how the book I had on my new Kindle got there. She thought surely there must be some photocopying going on to render the pages on my device. But every day, a little more data flows through the cloud instead of through an ink cartridge. Perhaps thirty or forty years from now —- taking the long view —- electronic devices will have completely altered the way we communicate. What an amazing time we live in!
Happy New Year!
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