The simple advice with a potential to make a big difference in life, “Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email. A (handwritten) note on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly 10 minutes,” was the advice by no other than United States’ Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a graduation speech to 14-years old in a school. The Time magazine called his speech “unconventional” while the Washington Times called it, “the best thing” he’s written all term.”
The much discussed speech in simple words and many nuggets of advice. It may seem negative at first but with very positive meaning. For example, he said that facing unfair treatment in life will teach value of justice and betrayal will teach the importance of loyalty. He wished them bad luck so they will be conscious of the role of chance in life- neither their success not failure is completely deserved. My advice to everyone, please read and have everyone (friends and family), especially young children, read it too.
I am using his advice to pitch our own initiative Pencil to Power i.e. the skill of writing is critical, essential, and empowering. It is particularly important when so much of our time is spent writing emails, What’s App, hashtags or 140-character Tweets. It is unfortunate that the age-old skill of writing by hand is going by the sideways globally. The grammar and punctuations are no longer cared about, the emphasis on spelling is disappearing; for example, “you” as “u” in a tweet or message is trendy. Handwritten notes and letters are certainly things of the past. In fact, Roberts’ speech has very important advice, “Talk to an adult, let them tell you what a stamp is. You can put the stamp on the envelope.” He is so right because the millennials he was addressing, perhaps never heard of a stamp, don’t know where to buy and how much does it cost to mail a letter. If any of them did, s/he must have smart father like Roberts.
My confession: I do not write letters any more but I write by hand enough not to forget what writing means and how pleasurable it is. In fact, my involvement with Vidya Gyan has reinforced writing by hand because I can’t word process in Hindi. The necessity has become the mother of reinvention of Hindi writing by hand for me.
Anyway, returning to the skill of writing (by hand), Roberts went as far as dictating a short letter and stating, “By the end of the school year, you will have sent notes to 40 people. Forty people will feel a little more special because you did, and they will think you are very special because of what you did.” I could not agree more.
Vidya Gyan’s Pencil to Power is simple with a lasting impact, we hope. We want to encourage and emphasize WRITING by children in primary schools. My own experiences and beliefs dictate that what we hear, we retain some of it, what we read is retained more but if we write what we learned, we retain and understand most of it.
I know that all of you cannot read Hindi but the photo is my own handwriting. It is an appeal to teachers in primary schools for emphasizing writing by hand at least once a week. It is titled “Reading & Writing= Understanding (+ Retention)” because learning to write by hand is a lifelong skill everyone must have even in this day of technology invention, infusion and invasion in our lives.
NOTE: A slight variation of the blog was earlier published at Linkedin.