TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: School Shuns Tech, Teaches Fountain Pen

School Shuns Tech, Teaches Fountain Pen

Ben McConville, AP (
Mon, 11 Dec 2006 13:09:54 -0600

By BEN McCONVILLE, Associated Press Writer

In this age of cell phones, text messages and computer keyboards, one
Scottish school has returned to basics. It's teaching youngsters the
neglected art of writing with a fountain pen.

There is no clacking of keyboards in most classrooms at the Mary
Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School, although there is a full
range of facilities for computer lessons and technology isn't being

But the private school's principal believes the old-fashioned pens
have helped boost the academic performance and self-esteem of his
1,200 pupils.

"The pens improve the quality of work because they force the children
to take care, and better work improves self-esteem," principal Bryan
Lewis said. "Proper handwriting is as relevant today as it ever has

Students as young as 7 have been instructed to forgo their ball point
pens and get to grips with its more artful predecessor. By the time
they reach grade five, at age 9, they are expected to write mainly
with fountain pens.

At an English class recently, students worked at perfecting a skill
that is under threat from the onset of e-mail -- the art of writing a
letter by hand. Each child's work was meticulous and clearly presented
in the upright, graceful strokes of a fountain pen.

Ten-year-old Cailean Gall has been using fountain pens in class for
two years. It took the keen soccer player one month to master the pen
and, like all pupils at the school, still has regular handwriting

"At the start it was hard because I kept smudging, but you get used to
it," he said. "I still have to use a pencil for maths, and now I find
it strange using the pencils. I like it because it makes me
concentrate much more on my work."

Cailean now uses his fountain pen even for non-school work, but
classmate Katie Walker, 11, prefers to use ball point and pencil when
not in class.

"I use it for schoolwork and homework only," she said. "It is quite
easy using a fountain pen once you're used to it. My parents say it's
improved my work enormously."

The children learn a handwriting style developed by teachers at the
school, which charges $12,500 a year. New teachers are also put through
a course on how to write with pens -- as well as refresher courses on
literacy and numeracy -- before they are let loose in classes.

Lewis said the school's 7- and 8-year-olds use fountain pens for 80
percent to 90 percent of their work, reverting to pencils for such
subjects as math.

"I don't see fountain pens as old-fashioned or outmoded. Modern
fountain pens are beautiful to use; it's not like in the old days of
broken nibs and smudging," Lewis said. "We have a particular writing
style and we have developed it very carefully and found a way that
allows left- and right-handed people to write without smudging."

Parent Susan Garlick supports the school and believes the use of
fountain pens has improved the work of her daughter Elisabeth, an
11-year-old in grade 7.

"Her handwriting is beautiful," Garlick said.

Some people in wealthy nations argue that handwriting is becoming less
important because of the growing use of cell phone text messaging and
typing on computers, but the school disagrees.

In August, for example, examiners at the Scottish Qualifications
Agency complained they had difficulty deciphering the scrawl of many
students on exam papers used to determine admission to universities.

"We talk of the paperless office and the paperless world, but this is
not true," Lewis said. "You still need to have proper handwriting

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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