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They Write It, but Can You Read It?


Every year in America, high-school students who want to go on to college take a national examination called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. Their score is an important factor in determining which colleges will admit them or whether any will at all.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test measures one's mathematical ability and use of the English language. Traditionally, the English portion involved grammatical questions and paragraphs that test reading comprehension.

But the SAT folks have added a single question, to be answered in an essay, hand-written on the spot.

That's an interesting way to test writing ability, but content aside, have you seen young people's handwriting lately? Or anyone's for that matter, in this age of computer keyboards?

Students write numbers and sign their names on bank checks. They scribble class notes in what can generously be described as the written word. And they hand-write, or more often print, a word or two of identification on luggage and lunch bags. Otherwise, penmanship -- once taught so scrupulously by second-grade teachers -- has gone the way of the dodo bird.

Yet today's kids are asked to write, thoughtfully and legibly, for several minutes on this SAT Test. Good luck to the test scorers who must decipher the scrawls of young people who've been typing on computers since the age of three!

Stalwarts insist that good handwriting can not only help one's score on the SAT, but also, later on in life, impress potential employers and earn bigger tax refunds because the tax inspectors can actually read the computations. And don't forget, we all have to resort to handwriting from time to time, as computers go down when the power goes out.

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