The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The case for handwritten assignments

The+case+for+handwritten+assignments
Illustration by Rhea Noumair

English timed writings, DBQs, LEQs and FRQs are stressful experiences for many WJ students. I’m sure most students can agree that frantically writing in blue or black ink as our hands start cramping with five minutes left in class does not bring back any fond memories. Yes, timed writings are nerve-racking for many, yet, it’s a more valuable experience than we think.

We gain a lot as students when we are assigned handwritten work. And it’s too bad that the only chances we get to hand write essays are when we have timed writings in class. Hand written work helps us to be successful learners. According to some studies, we better encode information through writing than typing.

While typing on the computer is very efficient, there’s a cost we pay: we don’t learn how to write properly. When we type in Google Docs, it constantly underlines words and phrases and even corrects grammar as we type. Sure, it may seem helpful at the time. But in the long run, it only hinders our writing. Writing and editing are two different processes that should not take place at the same time. First we write, then we edit. But the computer edits for us as we write.

Furthermore, it’s easier to edit as we type because we can go back and delete words we wrote. But when we write by hand, we’re forced to keep writing, as we cannot simply just press a button to “delete.” It’s the idea of the stream of consciousness: our ability to write and jot down ideas that come into our mind on paper. This is an essential step to developing critical thinking.

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In addition, hand writing assignments promote better attention spans. When we type essays on the computer, there are so many distractions. We can change the font, the color and the size of the text. We can switch from tab to tab and multi-task. But when we hand write essays, it’s just our mind, our paper and pen.

Part of the reason why we never have hand written assignments could be traced back to the fact that education systems took out cursive writing from the curriculum. Cursive writing was likely phased out in most education systems around 2013. I was never taught cursive in school. In the third grade, we were given an optional cursive packet to take home and teach ourselves. As a nine year old, I did not know what to do with that packet. And so I never learned cursive properly, which is now coming back to bite me. I can barely sign my name on documents, which should be a simple task and a valuable one as we all become adults.

Since schools stopped teaching cursive, you’d think they’d teach typing. But no, we’re not taught how to type either. Even my parents had typing classes on typewriters. I never learned how to type, and for the longest time, I was typing with my two index fingers. But during the pandemic, I taught myself how to type on a website and it proved to be so valuable, especially during online school.

In today’s day and age, we’re surrounded by so much advanced technology. Some of it is very helpful. I’m not saying that we should ban computers in school. Computers are useful tools for learning. But the problem is that we’re not taught how to use such technologies properly. We overuse computers in school to the point that they hinder our writing skills.

It’s easy to abuse technology, especially with AI and ChatGPT that can now generate and entirely write essays for us. AI programs and even websites like Grammarly make us lazy as students and writers, but there’s an even greater danger: it also threatens our society. Writing is an important skill in life that enables us to express our thoughts, ideas and feelings. But now we have AI technology that not only writes these personal things for us, but also thinks for us. When humans use AI, original thought and ideas are lost. The truth is lost, as well as our capacity to recognize the truth. And a world without truth is a scary one to live in.

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About the Contributor
Rachael Wolfson, Print Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Wolfson is currently a senior and this is her third year on The Pitch. During her first two years, Rachael was a Print Opinion Editor and now she is a Print Editor-in-Chief. In addition to The Pitch, Rachael runs on the cross country and track team. She's also the Co-Founder and Co-President of The WJ Gilmore Girls Club. Her two older brothers (Thomas '20 and Alexander '22) also served as Print Editors-in-Chief when they were Wildcats/Madcows (take your pick). Rachael is looking forward to ending the Wolfson Dynasty (2017-2024) on a high note!! 
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    Lisa ClineJan 4, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    Great article. Free-writing is very therapeutic — beyond just teaching us how to think.

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