Book Riot links to this story from Boing Boing which tells us that there’s noticeable demand for learning to use a typewriter among Philadelphia’s school kids. It is claimed that you pay more attention to your writing when you type on an old fashioned typewriter because it’s harder to make a correction than if you’re using a computer keyboard.

OK, but what about handwriting? I keep hearing that schools are stopping teaching handwriting. If you write in ink it’s hard too to make a correction to a page of hand-written copy, at least a correction which is not blindingly obvious. I have a belief that our brains have evolved to work at the same speed as our hand will be able to write down our thoughts. Of course, even if that’s true, a hunt-and-peck typist like me is probably going equally slowly at handwriting or at keyboarding.

There’s short video at the Boing Boing site, but it may also be accessed here.

I would think that any writer will use the writing technique which feels best to them. If you get used to writing on a heavy old manual typewriter, that’s probably the place you’ll do your best work. (I wonder if, faced by writer’s block, switching to a different technology might work.) Recently Charles Simic discussed the physical side of writing at NYR Daily, the blog of The New York Review of Books. He favors a chewed stub of a pencil, and some little scrap of paper. Of course paying too much attention to the mechanics of a writer’s production line is a reductive trivialization. Thus Mr Simic mocks the cultural media “You are known the world over for your sculptures carved out of butter, sir, turning out masterpieces that are attracting the attention of leading museums in this country and the world: Did you churn your own butter when you sculpted your famous Weeping Madonna, or did you buy it at the local supermarket? If he says he makes his own, they want to meet the cow from which the milk came and take a photograph of the two of them standing next to the sculpture.”

It’s good that there are still one or two typewriters out there for writers who like to use them, but trying to co-opt them as an educational tool is a bit over-ambitious. After all, just because it’s hard to make a correction doesn’t mean that you don’t make errors. You just spend more time damning and blasting while rectifying a situation which is so simple on a computer that making an error has become trivial. We have calculators to make learning arithmetic less important. Thus we have spell checkers to make spelling ditto.

To the extent that this educational fashion is a means of assuring the survival of a typewriter repair shop, this is of course an excellent idea.