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Handwriting: The Controversy!

Letters to the Editor: The keyboard may be quicker, but the supporters of cursive aren't about to give up the fight.

I read with great interest Anne Trubek's article titled "Handwriting Is History" (January-February 2010).

In 2008, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, featured my work on holistic future's forecasting.

I am old enough to recall the 1980s predictions of both the paperless society and of technology fostering so much leisure time that people's future lack of need to work would become a severe societal problem. "Machine replaces human" in a world as complex as this one has a poor track record. Moreover, slowness of thought (fostered by handwriting) has its irreplaceable benefits, which can be merged with technology to produce highest-order results: Careful, careful, on what we bring to pass.

I "get" the symbolism that this comment is being e-mailed — my books and articles are handwritten, then word-processed.

Guntram F. A. Werther, Ph.D.
Thunderbird: The School of Global Management
Glendale, Ariz.

Wrong, in four dimensions
In "Handwriting Is History," Anne Trubek predicts that handwriting is fated to die out and claims that its cultivation does little to benefit the person who has learned to wield a pen beautifully. Her view falls short in several ways: First, her high praise for the "automaticity" of touch-typing (which she likes because she says it can keep up with one's "speed of cognition") is unimaginative. With but a little imagination, we should see that touch-typing is very nearly as technologically primitive as handwriting: It would be short-sighted not to foresee the demise of QWERTY skills once we can, for example, don headgear and see our verbalized thoughts appear instantaneously on screen (or whatever the medium for the message has by then become). Touch-typing is not here to stay either. We can already dictate to our computers in speech recognition mode faster than most of us can QWERTY.

But Ms. Trubek makes other, and psychologically more important, claims, and these we would do well to question. She asks, "Does good handwriting signal intelligence?" and she then too quickly answers with an unexplained, categorical "no!"

The following observation is purely anecdotal, but may have a place here: In some four decades of academic life, during which I pre- and post-tested many students using standard IQ tests (not of course designed to detect associations between above-average intelligence and above-average handwriting), I could not help but notice that students (as well as fellow faculty) with good penmanship do, on average, show certain signs of above-average intelligence — specifically a more developed ability to organize their thoughts and express those thoughts with clarity, plus greater intellectual discipline and the abilities to exercise care, diligence and attentiveness. Can Ms. Trubek cite empirical studies that demonstrate no correlation between intelligence (in connection with the skills just mentioned) and good handwriting? Or is she simply expressing a rhetorical opinion — like mine, purely anecdotal?

Third, recognizing that handwriting as well as touch-typing are technologically primitive means of expression, we might be wise to ask whether the enforced slower speed of handwriting, for the great majority of us, serves as a desirable speed governor, putting the brakes on the inferior quality of the written word when it is allowed to flow to the screen at touch-typed velocity. Well-written prose is usually not accomplished at the hurried pace of most people's stream of consciousness.

Last, as we become habituated to a society that has developed amnesia for the meanings of Platt Roger Spencer's key terms, we might want to study (empirically, of course) whether learning the art of fine penmanship may, in fact, help to make a person more refined, genteel and upstanding. Certainly in these respects, we need all the help we can get. Cultivating fine handwriting can be a step, albeit perhaps only a small one, toward cultivation.

Steven J. Bartlett, Ph.D.
Visiting scholar in psychology, Willamette University

and senior research professor, Oregon State University
Salem, Ore.

And the minimum monthly payment on $825B would be ... ?
Eighty billion dollars for clean energy sounds like a lot of money ("Adventures in Capitolism," January-February 2010). However, it would buy approximately 40 gigawatts of land-based wind power, 26.67 GW of offshore wind or 12.3 GW of solar power. Building a new energy infrastructure based on clean, renewable energy would cost about $825 billion, less than the cost of the war in Iraq, which is, according to Alan Greenspan, "a war for oil." Using technology available today, we would need about 100 GW of land-based wind, $200 billion; 100 GW of offshore wind, $300 billion; and 50 GW of solar, $325 billion. Saving civilization in the parlance of Madison Avenue, "priceless."

Unlike coal and nuclear power, solar and wind power systems are not fuel dependent and don't create wastes. Once the facility is built, it runs on a natural process, sunlight or wind. Fuel equals waste. No fuel, means no waste: no mercury, no radionucleotides, no arsenic, no greenhouse gases, no mines, mills, despoiled rivers and stripped mountains.

Harnessing natural processes is clean and sustainable. Consuming resources is neither.

Larry Furman
Englishtown, N.J

Let's talk about the definition of legitimate
We have read several issues of Miller-McCune, and the articles seem to be well researched. However, what we have found missing is the lack of anything written about the other side of an issue where legitimate difference of opinion exists.

An example is the long-standing dispute, but never debated openly, about anthropogenic climate change. This is an issue of profound importance. Both sides of the issue should be presented before any decisions are made that could drastically affect all of us.

How many people know, for example, the history of Roger Revelle who started the global warming/CO2 controversy with an article co-authored with Hans Suess in 1957? Revelle is considered the "grandfather" of global warming and was the mentor of Al Gore. However, he authored an article in 1991 with Chauncey Starr for Cosmos magazine in which he stated that CO2 was not a problem. Revelle died of a heart attack three months after the Cosmos article was printed, but it appears that he would likely be a denier of anthropogenic climate change today.

The recent revelations from the Climatic Research Unit e-mails clearly suggest that there should be more discussion of the issue. There are many well-known scientists that need to be heard such as Lord Christopher Monckton, who is chief policy adviser of the Science and Public Policy Institute, and I hope Miller-McCune would consider an article on this important issue.

Verne E. Dow
Topeka, Kan.

Editor in Chief John Mecklin responds: As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. The deniers of anthropogenic climate change are — according to an overwhelming consensus of thousands of scientists around the world, as embodied in the most recent assessment report of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — simply wrong. This is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of facts, determined to a high level of likelihood through decades of research. We do not publish the writings of geocentrists who want to argue with Copernicus and, therefore, we direct climate change denialists in search of a forum to the Web site of The Flat Earth Society, which has been "Deprogramming the masses since 1547" and may be in need of new writers.

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