School Teaching Kids How To Use Fountain Pens; Do They Teach Math With An Abacus Too?

from the stick-with-the-times dept

Now I’m as big a fan of the fountain pen as the next guy, but I’m not exactly convinced that it’s vital to teach our school kids how to use one. However, it appears not everyone agrees. Following just a few months after the hand-wringing from some adults that the kids of today are doomed for being better at using computers than being able to write cursive, comes the news of a private school in Scotland that has decided that teaching kids how to write with fountain pens is of utmost importance. Apparently, fountain pens (not other types of pens) boost the kids’ self-esteem and improve their academic performance. It’s not at all clear how they go about proving this, other than a couple of random anecdotes, but the school is absolutely positive that fountain pens are the key to a child’s success. Not to knock the importance of decent handwriting, but if the purpose of school is to prepare kids for the world they’re going to enter as adults, I would think that how to use a fountain pen would be pretty far down the list of marketable skills. Then again, this other article points out how business schools feel they need to teach students to be better writers, as they tend to send stuff out without proofreading (or thinking) when they type it up on a computer.

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Comments on “School Teaching Kids How To Use Fountain Pens; Do They Teach Math With An Abacus Too?”

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Mike F.M says:

To be fair...

…it is important for kids to be able to hand-write letters and proof-reed all works as well as using a computer.

However, to focus on this just seems stupid — especially to focus on fountain pens. I don’t know many work situations where large amounts of text are hand-written, let alone with the use of a fountain-pen being required.

Patrick (profile) says:

Purpose of school

I agree that the purpose of schooling is to educate children for the future. However I do not agree that it to teach them a technical field. Rather we should focus on logic and communication.

To this end I too returned to fountain pens. I have owned several. I think that they do give the written page a nice look than even the best ball point. But more to the point, they require that any conscientious author take time to figure out the what the line will say before simply jotting something off.

A more classical education can better anyone. A more modern education will only better the computer manufacturers.

kuanyin says:

Re: Purpose of school

As I stated before, if you don’t check your spelling and grammar while using a computer you are not likely to do it while hand writing a letter, either. On the other hand it is much easier to change a misspelled word on the computer than scratch out a written word or start a new page.
We live in a different time… thus we use computers…
I still maintain that it is much more important to teach the important subjects, such as math, etc etc

Jeff De Cagna (profile) says:

I actually think it is a good idea

Since writing well with a fountain pen takes a bit of practice, I think this is an interesting piece of pedagogy. On the surface, it may seem like a waste of time, but in the Web-enabled world, there is value in teaching kids to be patient, to stay focused on the task and to pay close attention to detail. These are important success attributes that everyone should develop.

So I don’t think it is an either/or choice, and those of us who blog, podcast and use other social media must recognize that our culture of self-expression can manifest itself even in low-tech ways.

kuanyin says:

Re: I actually think it is a good idea

Well put, with good insights. You do give a point that I have not thought about. Plus, thanks for the new word, “Padagogy” 🙂
But on the other hand, I still feel that we do not teach our kids enough on the other subjects. To give just one small example of the lack of teaching in our school systems, a teenager in my neighborhood thought that Germany is another state of the US. This thought was echoed among several other teenagers in the neighborhood. Now, no amount of fantastic handwriting is going to teach these basic skills.

Gomorrah (profile) says:

Re: Re: I actually think it is a good idea

As one who is still considered young I am deplored that the teenager actually thought that Germany was another state in the USA. However, that is not the fault of the school system, the teenagers in your area are completely lazy and need to learn how to read it appears. I went to a high school in Mississippi and can honestly say that no matter what people think of that deep south state we have no teenagers who do not know the European countries. The parents of those teenagers need to sit them down and watch them read their schoolbooks.

The teaching of fountain pens is a skill that should be brought back. I have had horrible handwriting all of my life, and the use of a fountain pen (which I am currently STILL learning) has improved my handwriting exponentially. My only regret is not having had a teacher even suggest it before (I began learning it at the suggestion of a favored Professor). I applaud the school for making it part of the curriculum and can only hope that it rubs off elsewhere in the world.

SimplyGimp says:


No one seems to mention the fact that we are incredibly reliant on technology. Mass production. Now, what happens if that happens to come to an end? What happens if no one then knows what the hell a fountain pen is? Does our written language get lost or do we use chunks of coal?

Do I think this is likely? Not really, but… anything could happen. It’s never a bad idea to learn first hand how things were done before we had the technology to change them.

But even then, we do have mass produced fountain pens with self contained ink reservoirs. Also, writing that is produced with a fountain pen is much more ‘formal’ looking. But I think the same applies in that sense when looking at the teaching of cursive and how many people actually use it when out of school.

I say teach the basics. Tell the kids what a fountain pen was, maybe have an old style pen with an ink well. One for an entire class would be enough for the kids to see how it works. Don’t think we need to teach them the styles and proper hand positions for writing with a fountain pen.

Solarcanine says:

Re: Interesting...

No one seems to mention the fact that we are incredibly reliant on technology. Mass production. Now, what happens if that happens to come to an end? What happens if no one then knows what the hell a fountain pen is? Does our written language get lost or do we use chunks of coal?

Interesting question. Except that your argument would make far more sense if it was a discussion about a school in Scotland that was teaching students how to make fountain pens (and the ever-important ink) from scratch without modern production techniques. For the discussion at hand, your logic fails.

Merely knowing how to write with a fountain pen is not going to help if mass production ‘comes to an end’ – you’d be hard-pressed to find a fountain pen in your local store that wasn’t the product of mass production.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Personal touch

I find that writing with a fountain pen (especially a dip-style pen) makes a connection with the written work that is certainly absent from just jotting it down using the $0.02 pen from he bottom of your drawer. This connection also lends a more watchful eye for misspellings, punctuation, et al. Basically, it makes someone feel that what they have written is more important to them. Therefore, it will be examined more closely.

Now, how this is “vitally important”? That’s a matter of opinion. And if it’s opinion of the decision makers of that school, so be it.

“It’s not at all clear how they go about proving this, other than a couple of random anecdotes, but the school is absolutely positive that fountain pens are the key to a child’s success.”

That’s a bit cynical, Mike. When one of the “anecdotal” evidences is one of the students saying “it’s improved my work”, I’d say that’s an expert on the subject. If the student feels that it has improved his work, and his pride in his work, I’d say that it proves the teacher’s point. And that is reinforced when the parents say that it’s improved their work.

And I don’t see anything in the article that asserts the school’s belief that “this skill is the key to the child’s success”. That’s something that you’ve added from your interpretation of the article. Those kinds of throw-ins seem like personal attacks, Mike. Personal vendetta?

Now, did you not notice the last few paragraphs where it talks about the school developing a particular writing style that allows right- and left-handed students to write with a fountain? It sounds to me like they are using the fountain pen as a focus and tool for developing pride-in-work, as well as basic readability, spelling, etc. So, why the cynical attack? If a student has a better grasp of communication in the written medium, and has a developed sense of pride-in-work (something I see painfully missing these days), then what’s wrong with using a method that develops those?

Frenchie says:

French education system

In fact, in the French education system, all students *must* use a fountain pen. A wide range of very cheap and colorful looking fountain pens designed for kids are also available from every supermarket.

The argument has always been that handwriting looks much nicer with a fountain pen, and it forces the school children to apply themselves more carefully.

Matthew says:

Calculators are too easy

I’ve always wanted to learn how an abacus works. However, how cursive equates to a better student is beyond me. I’ll admit that I think the excessive use of text-talk, or l33t, or whatever the press’ latest term for this, makes kids seem far more stupid than they are. And they are, but will certainly get better with age — such is youth.

My point is that this requirement of the fountain pen’s use is mere “back in my day” mentaility. No one is claiming that modern binders cannot kill bears these days because bears are not a large modern problem. So to do computers change the way kids work and play. It doesn’t mean that they’re not thinking.

Nobody Special says:

how much time?

The thing missing is how much time is devoted to the subject? The truth is that in taking away everything except what imediately leads to the standardized test surely takes away from the overall experience. I believe the most important lesson I learned about Columbus came from going out on the playground and marking out the size of his three ships. That was the first time I was doing more then studying some dead people from long before Gandpa came along.

Another item not in most curriculum which I believed was beneficial was checkers in the fourth grade. It certainly didn’t help directly. But it would be hard to measure the secondary benefit of having logic drilled into the head. And I believe my classmates and I did do better then average latter in math. (I could be wrong too.)

I think perhaps too much attention has been given in the article. But it is important to teach more then the three Rs. And there is plenty of prior research indicating enrichment exercises do assist in academic progress.

Myself (user link) says:

What about the southpaws?

Have they returned to rapping the knuckles of right-brained kids, forcing us to write with the wrong hand so as not to smear the ink? That’s my only reservation about the plan.

Teaching kids to do something archaic, like cutting their own nibs or knapping flint arrowheads, is a great idea. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time, but when the kids realize that their parents might not even know this skill, it makes them proud of learning.

How many stupid songs did we learn in music class, tooting on that awful off-key recorder? Did they have any educational value? I’d much rather have spent some of that time learning a nifty skill like how to use a fountain pen.

Mihnea (user link) says:

Think again

Seriously now, as I read the article I started thinking that the actual problem is that kids today actually need to be taught how to use a fountain pen. I mean, its common sense and it definitely shouldn’t constitute a subject for discussion. – and to talk about the actual article: well, kids need to learn how to use a fountain pen as they need to learn how to use a fork, when instead they could eat with their hands or be fed through a tube. Know what I mean?

Daniel says:


it also makes you look much more of a professional if you have a nice fountain pen and write well, sure a biro signs a contract or jots notes just as well but if your trying to look impressive in todays world you go to whatever lengths you have to, you dont go to that all important business meeting with muddy shoes after all, so you should also take your best fountain pen and make neat accurate notes.

i feel so much better writing with a nice fountain pen than scribbling with a biro. in fact today someone pointed out that i used one and mentioned it to another person as a “hey heres someone else that uses a fountain pen” way (she said she thought he was the only one left!), well it may not seem much but it made my monday morning a little brighter.

Howard Lee Harkness (user link) says:

Lost art

While typing is one of the more important skills I own, I also like my fountain pen. When I write with my fountain pen, I have to slow down and plan out my writing, because it is much harder to edit (not to mention that I have to rely on my own built-in spell-checker). I am also proud of my handwriting and calligraphy skills. If nothing else, it impresses the ladies…

BTW, I also know how to use an abacus, and a slide rule, and I got pretty good at both. I don’t think that the time I spent learning those skills has hurt me any. In fact, I think I have a little better understanding of math in general because of that training.

Learning is not a zero-sum game. Learning one thing does not preclude learning other things. The more diverse things you learn, the more you can learn. The more you exercise your memory, the better it gets. The brain is like a muscle in that regard; the more you use it, the more powerful it becomes.

Violins and Accessories

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

Happens here in the states too

My kid’s in a foreign-language immersion school and has to write everything (except in English class) with a kid’s fountain pen, same as Frenchie mentioned. This starts with first grade. I can tell you not only is his handwriting clear but he thinks clearly because he doesn’t want to have to rewrite stuff.

Funniest is that because the school follows the California curriculum for English, his handwriting and organizational skills when using English are terrible! Oops, sorry, they’re not: they are “age appropriate” as per the CA standards.

I myself don’t use one and never have aye rite oka!

Anonymous Coward says:

You’ve got to be kidding me. This editors comments are pretty much trolling. He really is either so far out of touch with anything besides the computer he sits infront of or he is just trying to spark some comments to his posts.

I’ve never used a fountain pen or plan on it, but to say they should never be taught just because we have computer is just plain stupid. In your mind should we never use paintbrushes because we have photoshop? You sir need to stop writing for techdirt.

TFreeland says:

Using fountain pen in Scots school

Actually, using a fountain pen is a simple way to get the students paying more attention to their handwriting without having to turn over huge amounts of instructional time to the process. I think it’s an excellent idea. It is a way of combining the physical act of writing with the intellectual act–and finding pleasure in both.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fountain pens not withstanding, good penmanship in general has declined as of late with kids getting lazy on computers. Granted, computers are better due to word-processing capabilities and stuff, but it’s easy to get too lazy with them. I worked at a credit union for a while, during which I processed a lot of cashed and deposited checks. You would not believe the horrible handwriting some people have. But then again, people are being taught not to give a hoot about anything but themselves anymore, so the popular opinion is “why should I have to worry about handwriting?” I dunno about you, but when I write a check, I prefer mine to be readable so they don’t take it for more than what I wrote it for. Likewise, if I somehow end up in court for something and a signature I made on a document is contested, I’d like it to be legible enough to be identifiable. Some of the handwriting I’ve seen on checks would NOT hold up in court. I guarantee it.

Dan Reading says:

slide rules

When I was in school (in the early 80s!) my chemistry teacher required that we perform stoichiometry equations with a slide rule. And yes, digital calculators were widely available even in the 80s! There was something elegant and noble about those slide rules, the slick way they snickered back and forth, the magic of how they worked at all. It gave one an appreciation of the alchemy and precise beauty of the science that a TI calculator just did not convey. I completely understand why fountain pens.

The Dukeman (profile) says:

Your job not withstanding...

Mike, you did an excellent job of sparking discourse on the subject. Your job, of course.

That said, I dabbled with fountain pens about 25 years ago, and they were terrible. Maybe the technology of fountain pens has increased greatly in those years. I used the cartridge type pens available in the supermarket, plus I even had a calligraphy set of the same pen. The ink was unsightly and didn’t match with modern paper. It soaked into the paper, making a real mess (likely due to being watered down by the mass market, get rich quick nature of our society). I did try a few brands of paper, also widely available at the local stores. The pens also had a habit of sprouting leaks in the nibs, causing puddles right in the middle of your writing. Unless the pens, inks, and paper have improved, neatness will certainly not be a result of using fountain pens.

Maybe they have better pens in France and Scotland.

kuanyin says:

writing with fountain pens

how about teaching kids what used to be the most important subjects… such as math, their own native language, or even a second language, geography, art, etc …
if young adults (and older ones, too) send reports off without proofreading them on the computer they are not going to proofread them if they write them out on paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's a private school

Thats where I even stopped reading. Their parents send their kids there optionally, and if they dont like it, they can send them elsewhere if the school doesnt heed complaints. Unlike normal public schools, which arent obligated to give a crap, these survive off their income received from customers, ie, parents. Essentially, none of our business what they want to teach their kids. If they want their kids to know how to use a fountain pen for a touch of class later in life or the likes, why do we care? They’re paying out of pocket, saving tax papers a ton of dough so the public can send another kid to public schools just for a 50% shot at dropping out in some areas of the US for example (no idea about Scotland or the UK in general) at the public’s expense.

Danno says:

Hmm… y ‘know, it occurs to me that while calligraphy might be a little extreme, the tendency to ignore legibility in handwriting as a goal of education might be bad.

I mean, I use a keyboard for the vast majority of the writing I do, I probably write vastly more because of it. But I still find it necessary to use handwriting to communicate (despite my atrocious skill at it). More than that, in a situation without a computer, legible handwriting becomes absolutely necessary to get across thoughts and ideas.

At least bad handwriting isn’t a result of computers (I recall my father’s handwriting which is incomprehensible by any standards, I feel bad for his past secretaries).

Davey says:

Teaching abacus

Teaching kids to use an abacus for math would probably be a very smart thing. It’s hands-on, requires knowledge of how math works, and has the simplicity to be understandable as a whole. If we want real learning and not just training keypad monkeys to do rote routines, we could do worse than including an abacus segment to the curriculum.

As to the fountain pen, it does seem a bit much, but having a good-looking result instead of a bunch of waxy scratches might be a good motivator. Did you know that the great playwright Eugene O’Neill could only create his work with pen and paper? Typing just didn’t let his ideas flow out into the world. When he became too arthritic to do handwriting he had to try and dictate his plays even though he was physically capable of typing. Maybe there’s more to this handwriting stuff than meets the eye (so to speak).

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Not nagging...

Just wanted to steer a few things back into focus… I’m not picking on people here.

“teaching penmanship…cool

having it the focus of studies? maybe for a day week at the most.

but after that, move on. yes it’s wonderful to know how to write. however, there are many other topics that should becovered.”
-AC, #29

They aren’t talking about just teaching penmanship, they’re talking about using penmanship to reinforce better communication habits. That’s something that should be reinforced throughout your entire life. Perhaps if language and communication were of a greater focus, things like Ebonics and “leet” wouldn’t be so annoyingly prevalent.

“if young adults (and older ones, too) send reports off without proofreading them on the computer they are not going to proofread them if they write them out on paper”

You’ve got the carriage in front of the horse. It’s because we don’t proof on the computer that we need proofing reinforced. If we make it a focus early on, proofing will be a habit no matter which medium is being used.

Besides, with pens, you can reinforce “preemptive correctness” instead of “post-writing correction”. I know that I sometimes let common misspellings go while I’m typing because I’m in a hurry and I know spellchecking will catch it. It’s not a good habit to rely on spell-check, and I’ve been burned by it before.

“The only time I ever used a fountain pen, the edge of my left hand ended up BLUE from dragging it over what I just wrote. Pfffffffffffffffffflllt on this idea.”

That was covered in the article near the end. They talk about the school “developing a style of writing…” so that even left-handed people (for whom fountain pens have always been a bane) can write it. They’re not “reprogramming” southpaws, they’re working with them. Hooray for them. 🙂

“Hmm… y ‘know, it occurs to me that while calligraphy might be a little extreme, the tendency to ignore legibility in handwriting as a goal of education might be bad.”

They never said they were teaching calligraphy. Calligraphy is not the only use of a fountain pen. I use fountain pens on a regular basis, and I can’t pen the first letter in calligraphy.

They are reinforcing the habit of paying attention to what you’re writing and to take care in your output. I.e., legibility.

Vikki says:

Education needs an overhaul

I agree that though writing specifically with a fountain pen and making that the focus of study for a significant length of time is a bit of an overkill, there is something to be said for teaching kids that clear, concise handwriting IS a skill needed for a better career. True, much of our work today is done on the PC, but I must admit that there are times during my workday where I need to write someone a quick note or sign something and like mentioned earlier, in those cases your handwriting needs to be legible to avoid mistakes and miscommunication.

I also agree that too much emphasis is placed on technology in schools and not enough is placed on subjects that actually get student’s brains working on their own. What ever happened to debate classes, sociology, classes where students had to openly discuss things going on in the world? Have you seen reports on this country’s schools as of late? They’re appalling. Half of this country’s high school students have the intellect of 5th graders. How do these student’s manage to graduate or do teachers just move them on, not wanting to deal with the actual issue that no one is learning?? I think that is the real issue.

The infamous Joe says:

This message was typed with a fountain pen.

I do enjoy all the people who have jumped to the defense of the fountain pen, but here we go with some reality:

How many people thing riding horses should be taught in school? I mean, we have cars and trains and such, but I’m sure it could build character, right? As I read it, Mike is just pointing out that in a day and age where writing is less and less important, why take the time to teach something that 90% (I made that number up) of the students probably won’t ever use in life?

And I whole-heartedly agree that learning something doesn’t stop you from learning something else– being TAUGHT something in school takes up time that could be spent teaching something else. Perhaps offing it as an after school activity, sure. That’s just how I see it, anyhow.

Dare I even ask how many of you know how to figure out a square root of a number on paper?

Gabrielt Tane (profile) says:

Re: This message was typed with a fountain pen.

“How many people thing riding horses should be taught in school?”
-The infamous Joe

Hooray for Herrings! Again… this whole article and discussion is not about teaching something archaic just to fight back against modernization. It’s about using a tool to reinforce a skill that is still needed today: communication skills.

And yes, I can calculate the square root of a number by hand without a calculator. I learned the algorithm myself through research because they didn’t teach it when I was in school.

Archana says:

More power to them!

I applaud the school! By the way, why does teaching writing with a fountain pen necessarily preclude learning about anything else?

I grew up in India. When I was in school, we HAD to use fountain pens from the fourth grade or so onwards – but we did get to learn enough and more of History, Geography, Science, Maths and the languages too. Not to mention, we also managed to make neat notes for all of it with our fountain pens.

Sumant says:

Re: More power to them!

I did my schooling in Mumbai, India too. It was compulsory for us to use fountain pen. Ballpoint pens were not allowed in the class. It definitely helped improved our hand writing.Though maintaining the nib of the pen, filling the ink, flushing and cleaning the pen at that young age was huge and messy task!
I would still wish my kids go to a school which use fountain pens!

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

Learning to write for self-esteem?

If you made me learn to write with a fountain pen, I’d have the lowest self esteem possible!

My handwriting is atrocious, but that doesn’t make me any less smart, nor does it make me insecure. Everyone who ever has to look at my handwriting knows there is a reason I type everything. My hands are NOT the hands of an artist, and as such, my letter have never, and will never come out pretty.

My cursive writing is so bad I havent used it since I wasn in high school… And even then, I only used it when it was a requirement.

Cursive itself is an abomination. It was supposed to make it faster to write. But it failed miserably in that it’s harder to write, and even harder to read. So what good is it?

You want to improve the moral of those with a modicum of intelligence? Abolish the teaching of cursive. That will make boat loads of geniuses happier.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Learning to write for self-esteem?

“If you made me learn to write with a fountain pen, I’d have the lowest self esteem possible!

My handwriting is atrocious, but that doesn’t make me any less smart, nor does it make me insecure.”
-Bumbling old fool

I’m guessing, by your name, you’re not in grade school. Which means that your handwriting and script are already well established.

What this program is designed and intended to do is teach students while they’re still young to develop good writing skills. This will reinforce communication later. It will also instill a pride-in-workmanship that is, as I previously stated, sorely missing.

Reed says:

Re: Re: Learning to write for self-esteem?

“What this program is designed and intended to do is teach students while they’re still young to develop good writing skills. This will reinforce communication later. It will also instill a pride-in-workmanship that is, as I previously stated, sorely missing.”

Plus the fountain pen is WAY cheaper than musical instruments, art supplies, and any other REAL curriculum. What a joke, just another excuse to cut the money out of education and retard the students ability to practice real world skills.

If students want to learn handwriting I am all for it, but it should be optional. I wasted too many years learning a dead art that no-one can read or understand.

Gianni says:

I see where they are going

I see the point they are trying to make but I am still very worried that kids aren’t getting taught math ( which I believe they teach in the wrong way anyway) and History and social science ( specfically economic and goverment). I think I got lucky that the public school I went too (in the hood) problem solving seem and debate seem to be the focus.

From India says:

Math with an Abacus

In certain parts of India, they do teach with Abacus. My niece knows how to use Abacus. It is a very thorough process of learning. The emphasis on how and not why. They do not expect kids to actually continue using Abacus, but just bu practicing it they learn how to think and do Math. It is very rewarding. They also learn Vedic Mathematics ( Modern gadgets are nice abstractions but it still makes sense to learn fundamentals.

Rob Schneider (user link) says:

Fountain Pens in use but not the whole

My kids go to this school. I assure you that they aren’t focusing on fountain pens to the exclusion of computers or any other topic. I do notice my son does write better with a fountain pen, and the fountain pen seemed to help him learn to write better. Indeed, he now prefers writing with a fountain pen. I’ve given him one of my older gold-nib pens and he appreciates the quality.

(one of the unintended consequences of fountain pens in the school is that a few kids “flick” ink on their fellow students. That being dealt with, accordingly).


Re: Fountain Pens in use but not the whole


Jeff says:

Because writing is ART

I’m not talking about the art of calligraphy.

I’m talking the basics of write, edit, rewrite, repeat.

One of the most difficult concepts to teach “The BackSpace Key Generation” is why it is important to learn the basic process as outlined above. Kids nowadays tend to believe that word processors allow them to write and edit simultaneously, “saving” steps. No longer is it necessary, they believe, to do rough drafts, revisions and final drafts, because it can all be done on the computer in one sweep. And look mom at the paper I saved!! (Insert proud smile here.)

Only problem with that is that PROFESSIONAL WRITERS — authors, journalists, etc. — typically find value into segmenting the process. Children and adult alike often get scared at the blank page or screen in front of them, and have the “writer’s block” issue as they write, because the “Editor” within them is often being critical as the “Writer” within them is trying to be creative and produce.

One of the TRUE SKILLS of writing, whether for industry or for creative purposes, is to be able to let your creative “Writer” side free and being able to tell the “Editor” side of your persona to take a back seat. This is similar to brainstorming sessions, where even the craziest ideas are supposed to be allowed, encouraged and definitely not rejected — only later are the participants supposed to look at the ideas that were generated and decide what’s junk, what’s usable, and what crazy ideas were innovative and what crazy ideas were simply nuts.

I remember days in my childhood — and this is not a fond memory of an old fart remembering the “Good Ol’ Days”, but has a point — when because computers were not in the home yet, the routine way of writing reports was on paper, in cursive. If I had report of fourteen pages and wanted to insert two paragraphs on page two, I had to rewrite much of the report.

Of course, today’s technology-enabled youth might perceive this to be a huge waste of time. However, it really sometimes SAVED time.

Certainly I lost time having to re-write it by hand. However, I gained time from only having to do one revision of my work.


If you’re following the process of write, edit, rewrite, and repeat, and you’re doing it all by hand, you want to minimize the number of times you have to repeat.

If you’re using a fountain pen, you can’t even make simple spelling errors which you can erase and immediately fix in pencil.

In such a low-tech situation, the effect is…

The actual WRITE process can be chaotic and creative.

The EDIT process needs to be much more thorough and care needs to be taken to find all mistakes, and to mark up the rough draft appropriately so that the NEXT re-write will, you hope, be the last one, because darn it the more times you write it the more your hand is going to hurt. You are actually biologically encouraged to take your time editing — it gives you a break from constant writing, and you know if you don’t do a good job, you’re going to be right back here in the edit phase one more time, with yet another re-write phase awaiting you. It encourages careful attention to detail in a very personal way.

The RE-WRITE phase is actually sped up from what it could be, because all you should be doing in this phase is just transcribing your most recent, edited draft into what you hope is your “final” copy.

I’ve seen kids struggle who don’t understand this process, and who just spend hours in front of the computer trying to massage the words into place, writing in a spontaneous, reactive mode as they brainstorm, and strugging as they mix between the “write” and “edit” phases of writing, not realizing part of the reason they are struggling is because they’re trying to wear both their “Writer” hat and their “Editor” hat at the same time.

In this way, THEIR TYPING might be simplified, but THEIR BRANS are more cluttered with complication. It’s SIMPLER to wear one hat at a time than constantly having to switch hats.

As a result of some teachers who indulge their students in nothing but the technological “best”, we end up with students who have received the “worst” instruction regarding writing.

Eventually, students growing up in a society that values “multitasking” SHOULD learn how to use a computer with a word processor, so that they can speed up their work. But before they learn how to switch hats and Write and Edit interchangably, it’s important that they first become good writers as a separate discipline, and good editors as a separate discipline. Otherwise, you end up with a highly skilled computer user who does not know how to write or edit, and is a complete failure and communicating.

All hail the Scots for recognizing…


lil'bit says:

Y'all missed the point

This was clearly a gag article! It must be April Fool’s Day or something. Perhaps it’s because it’s about a school in Scotland.

I guarantee you, no school in the US even bothers to teach writing – not penmanship because that hasn’t been taught in even longer – but writing as in communicating. Why bother? No one writes anything anymore.

My sister teaches Freshman Comp at a state univesity in the Midwest. She says that the entering freshman these days not only seem to have never encountered any basic English grammer, sentence structure, parts of speech, etc. but complain about being expected to learn

AussieGuy says:

Handwriting and Kids

I have taught at both public and private schools here in the US, and while I wouldn’t make the students use a fountain pen in EVERY class, I do have classes that I teach in penmanship and calligraphy. I am teaching 5th graders and to be honest their handwriting is terrible. As a teach I have a bit of a talent to read the unreadable, but good handwriting is something that is usable, lifelong skill no matter how much you do on the computer.

I have read articles about the cost of bad handwriting – patients who are given wrong medicines, sometimes deadly, because of poor handwriting, packages that are delivered to the incorrect address, tax returns unable to be completed due to unreadable handwriting, and countless hours wasted on the job calling incorrect numbers, addresses the wrong person or purely take time to decipher some note from the boss.

With my students we get back to basics – just like in Kindergarten with the forming of letters, spacing and the like. It bring back those wonderful memories of the days when a nap was part of the school day. Once the kids have practiced that we move on to Calligraphy. This makes them feel very grown up, taps into the artistic kids, and helps some of my less artistic to feel more creative. We use the $1.50 calligraphy markers that you find at any store and they kids have a blast making their pages decorative, projects become more about student work and less about what can I print from the internet and stick on a piece of cardboard and call it my own. It teaches them ownership and personal pride in their work.

I have found that this improves the general handwriting of my students – particularly the boys who seem to be cursed with the “chicken scratch handwriting” gene.

I think the fountain pens might be a bit far, but the principle is definately sound.

AussieGuy says:

Re: Handwriting and Kids

With all of the talk about proof-reading I should have done that myself. Noticed a few errors. Time is short when I have 23 kids asking me questions. I guess I should have written from home, and not during a five minute break between classes! Sorry about that – I have misrepresented my profession. I am deeply ashamed, and hang my head. 🙂

MisterWriter (user link) says:

Fountain pens

As a former teacher, let me share my experience. Students in my class earned the right to upgrade their pen tools. I would teach the proper way to use a fountain pen, and what type was best to start with. I bought them the first disposable one with my own money. I sent the parents a letter explaining why and suggesting that if they agreed they could buy their kid a better non-disposable one.

Here is what I got that the other grade level teachers did not get: kids who turned in nicely written, presentable work and wanted it back to take home. Kids who took care of their pens because they earned it. Kids who asked to redo work because they made a few too many mistakes and wanted it too look the best. Students who learned how to write neatly. Students who took a little longer and yet learned how to apply effort and thought to the work they were doing. This is not about a fountain pen; it is about a learning tool that can bring great results. Of course you have to teach proper use of the fountain pen. Like anything, turn a chore into a tactile experience and you get joy. This included one student who needed a keyboard to type on his IEP – he made himself learn it because…deep breath…he wanted to!

BTW, some years later, emailing with former students, the pens stuck with them and they even brought some friends into their circle of fountain pens.

Einstein says:

Know your place

Someone trained with an Abacus will kick your ass in any calculus contest with daily-numbers use.

Japanese kids learn optimized mathematics, like Karatsuba multiplication.

They rate first and high above any pupil from your country. They are brighter and clever. And at a later age, they kick your engineers work.

Feel free to stay in the mean, poor, average. I prefer to aim at the top. At school, at work, in life.

If you don’t understand why foutain pen teach you more than just writing, you do not possess the intelligence and insight to be above others.

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Brittany says:

Fountain Pens Teach Good Writing Grip

I’m not sure about self esteem, but I do know that writing with a fountain pen is extremely beneficial in learning to properly hold a pen. With a fountain pen, you only need light pressure to write, and too much pressure springs the prongs. This forces students to relax their grip and prevents writing cramps.

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