So much technology, so little writing

Some students in China and Japan are finding that they are losing the ability to write. It sounds like they can see the words and know how to spell but they are losing the ability to remember the characters:

Yet aged just 21 and now a university student in Hong Kong, Li already finds that when she picks up a pen to write, the characters for words as simple as “embarrassed” have slipped from her mind.

“I can remember the shape, but I can?t remember the strokes that you need to write it,” she says. “It’s a bit of a problem.”


Surveys indicate the phenomenon, dubbed “character amnesia”, is widespread across China, causing young Chinese to fear for the future of their ancient writing system.

Young Japanese people also report the problem, which is caused by the constant use of computers and mobile phones with alphabet-based input systems.

I don’t know how much of a problem this might be. If one is engaged in one media realm (texting, the Internet, etc.), it makes some sense that writing skills would decline and perhaps disappear. While I still remember how to write letters, I have found my writing endurance has declined. Particularly for people younger than me, I imagine writing might seem pretty archaic compared to the quickness of digital technology.

There is a suggestion later in the article that this might affect reading skills. There are also suggestions that the Chinese language is changing with the advent with new technology. Ultimately, languages and communication options do change over time. This is a great example of how changing technology can affect and alter language.

Cutting writing tests to save money

The Chicago Tribune reports on Illinois’ plan to cut down on state writing tests for 2010-2011 to save $3.5 million. From the article:

[L]ate last month, the Illinois State Board of Education decided to eliminate the writing exam given to students in grades three, five, six and eight for the 2010-11 school year.

The 11th grade writing test still will be given because some universities require a writing exam of applicants, said state board spokesman Matt Vanover.

I wonder if this is a cut intended to draw outrage from citizens…who might then be willing to pay more toward education.

Additionally, federal statutes focus on reading and math and do not require a writing test. The article also notes that Illinois’ writing scores are typically poor.