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

Re: School Shuns Tech, Teaches Fountain Pen

Rick Merrill (
Mon, 11 Dec 2006 16:30:52 -0500

Ben McConville wrote:
> 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
> ignored.

> 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
> been."

> 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
> lessons.

> "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.

And I betcha they FORCE all lefthanded kids to write with their right

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I don't think they go _that_ far ... I
can understand the rationale, however ... when I was in high school
(far too long ago, IMO, to remember much about it) our Algebra and
other general mathematics teacher was a guy named Paul Wilkinson. We
did not have computers of any kind in 'those days' (late 1950's). Then
in the middle 1970's as 'home computers' became a bit more common, I
learned Microsoft DOS _very well_ if I do say so myself -- so well
that as a 'sideline' I taught it to a few other folks, not the least
of whom was one (by this time) old man, retired school teacher, Paul
Wilkinson. So I taught Microsoft BASIC to the fellow who had twenty
years earlier taught _me_ algebra and mathematics.

Some of you long time readers will recall in the late 1970's I had
an OSI (Ohio Scientific Instruments) Model C-1-P home computer, with
all of 4 K memory (and DOS, loaded from a tape recorder took a bit
of that as well). You'll also recall that OSI had a reputation as a
'number cruncher'. We used to play these parlor games such as 'search
for and print out on the screen all prime numbers from one up to
infinity' and 'print out all square roots', etc. Paul watched me set
up the OSI to do these things and other stuff, then he remarked, 'oh
my, that sure is fast'. I told him, "yes Paul, it is quite fast, but
I would not be able to program it all in had _you_ not first taught me
the general principles. To find a prime number at infinity I do not
have to test all numbers up to one less than infinity, I need only
test numbers up to the square root of infinity _plus one more_, and
if I fail at that point, then the number (infinity) is NOT a prime
number." Paul thought about that and said, "yes, you are correct, and
I did teach that at some point or another." So anytime a computer is
used for anything more than just a convenient shortcut, it is being
abused, IMO. If I don't know telephones, then no matter now fancy my
typing or intricate my language, I cannot do TELECOM Digest.

Ant that is/was the problem at the school in question. Students were
using the computer alone, rather than their brains plus computer.
Instead of using the ten or twelve percent of their brains most of us
use, the computer had allowed them to get by with only one or two
percent of their brain power. PAT]

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