In a couple of recent posts I wrote about my desire to memorize some psalms, which led to some thoughts on the lost (or faded) craft of memorization.
Maybe because out-of-fashion mental skills were on my mind, I was drawn to a Wall Street Journal piece by Gwendolyn Bounds entitled How Handwriting Trains the Brain. If you have a feeling that we’ve all been getting stupider, now you know the reason: we all type instead of write. The article explores how handwriting builds and integrates cognitive skills, and even gives a list of handwriting manuals if you end up feeling sufficiently guilty about how far your handwriting has deteriorated.
Memorization and handwriting fit together tidily for me: a great way to work on learning poems, scripture, etc. is to write out the passage you’re trying to learn.
For all this talk about the Good Old Days of memorization, handwriting drills and so on, I’ll confess that being a young student in some old-style classroom, sitting at a desk doing endless worksheets and recitations, sounds absolutely hellish to me. I’m glad that I’m coming to these things of my own volition, as I feel the need of them. But that’s how the great John Holt thought all learning ought to happen from the very beginning: Let the child (or adult) learn what he wants, when he wants it, and make the resources available for him to do so at any point in his life. Amen.