Learning With: ‘From Clay Tablets to Smartphones: 5,000 Years of Writing’

Learning With: ‘From Clay Tablets to Smartphones: 5,000 Years of Writing’

6. The author writes:

The slow abatement of handwriting today feels like the severing of a historical tie. It relates us to the Mesopotamians, to Chaucer, to that struggling Egyptian student. Finland, for instance, has dropped its handwriting requirements in schools in favor of typing lessons. In the United States, in 2010, Common Core standards excluded cursive requirements in elementary schools, and most states no longer require students to learn it. (In some, however, there are signs of a cursive comeback.)

Do you agree that the decreasing role of handwriting is an important loss? How much do you write by hand? Which method of writing do you prefer and why?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What did you learn about writing from the article? Does it make you more fully appreciate writing?

— Which historical object from the exhibition is most fascinating to you? If you had to curate the same exhibition but could only include five objects, what would they be and why?

— What are your experiences with writing? Are they mostly positive or negative? What do you like to write about, and why? Do you like to write in a journal, or a blog? Do you like to write poems, stories or songs? Do you think you are a good writer? Which of your own writing are you most proud of?

— Where would you rank writing on the list of human achievements? Look through these lists of human achievements (here and here), and then create your own “Top 10.” Justify your ranking for the invention of writing (whether it makes your top 10 or not).

— The article concludes:

Will the historical cycle of doubting writing before it proves itself again continue? On the one hand, we should have faith: Writing has resurged time and again. On the other, technology is advancing at a pace like never before. Will the future of written expression become so simple — a smattering of autocompleted sentences, emoji and GIFs — that it will lack any critical thought at all?

“I certainly do not expect writing to go away,” said Mr. Bostrom, of Oxford. At least, he added coyly, not within “the finite period of time remaining before machine intelligence makes human intelligence irrelevant.”

Do you think the future of writing is in danger? Will we one day give up pencils, pens and keyboards for videos and voice messages? What would be lost for us as a society and as individuals if writing were to disappear?

— Imagine you are curating an exhibition on human communication in the year 7,019. Will writing still exist then? What do you think will be the primary mode of human communication?

Further Resources:

I Didn’t Write This Column. I Spoke It.

Handwriting Just Doesn’t Matter

Has the Electronic Image Supplanted the Written Word?

This Is Your Brain on Writing