Why Write? Penmanship for the 21st Century

After (shamefully) not writing any new posts for six months, here I am writing my second post in a single day. I’m on a roll!

I’m writing this second post to counter the negative sentiments of my earlier post, “Ink – Written by Hand,” in which I wrote about the future of handwriting appearing to be in jeopardy. This second post offers a more positive outlook.

After writing the first post, I was following some related links when I found myself on the Beyond Calligraphy Facebook page. Although Beyond Calligraphy is chiefly about Asian calligraphy, among its posts I discovered an amazing TEDx MileHigh Talk called Why Write? Penmanship for the 21st Century, given by Jake Weidmann, who I’d never heard of.

While watching the video (watch it at the top of this post), I learned that Jake is the youngest person to achieve the title of Master Penman, one of only twelve in the world. As such, he has much to say in support of the humble pen.

He begins his talk by sharing his fears for penmanship, when he says about the pen, “for the first time in history the value of this amazing tool hangs in the balance.” And he reveals, shockingly, that 41 out of 50 states in the US no longer require handwriting to be a fundamental part of their curriculum.

But then he takes a more positive stance when he states, “the pen is… the baton passed from one generation to the next.”

He adds, “I believe that typing is a very fundamental tool that children need to learn. However, they should not be learning it at the expense of handwriting.” This comment received the most favourable audience reaction of his entire talk.

He went on to say, “It is not technology that is the direct enemy of the pen, it is our dependency on technology. And the greater we grow our dependency on technology, what we may soon find is that we’ve created the most technologically-advanced way of creating illiteracy.”

Screenshot 2015-10-07 17.12.02For those in the audience who had given up on good penmanship, Jake had a few words of advice. “To those of you who say, ‘my penmanship has sailed and sunk… I write in chicken-scratch,’ let me encourage you a bit.” Then, to the backdrop of a monochrome photograph of a handless man and a fine example of ornamental script, Jake stated, “this is JC Ryan, The Handless Penman, a man without hands who made his living from penmanship. Any more excuses?”

Jake’s talk is, in turn, educational, thought-proving, inspiring and humorous. Watch the video and hopefully, like me, you will be enthused by Jake’s passion for penmanship and you’ll believe that there may be hope for the future of handwriting after all.

Jake concluded his talk on penmanship with a promise. “More than a form of writing or a communication, this is an art form for me and, as an artist and as a master penman, it is my goal to see that it lives on to see the dawn of a new generation.”

A few hours ago I was writing about the demise of handwriting, and I hadn’t a clue who Jake Weidmann is. Now I know. He’s the youngest ever Master Penman, an expert speaker, and quite possibly the saviour of penmanship.

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