Ways of restoring the manual dexterity lost through a curriculum which constantly privileges the written

Recently I heard of a research project at Imperial College begun to improve the manual skills of trainee surgeons which paired them up with a lace maker. It seemed to me a shame that the surgeons lacked good manual skills which are best learnt in early childhood. How much more efficient it would have been for manual skills of all sorts to have be practised from primary school onwards instead of having to overlay intellectual knowledge with newly acquired manual competence which requires highly developed muscle memory.

When I learnt how inspired Steve Jobs had been by the Calligraphy course he’d attended I wondered whether he’d incidentally found the course to be a counterbalance to computers. Many of the people who have taken up sewing, knitting, breadmaking or the like over the past year seem to found those pursuits helpful for their mental health. The charity Fine Cell Work works on a similar principle.

Before they can do calligraphy and play with different scripts children need to learn to write and Ewan Clayton has written a splendid chapter at the end of the catalogue for the British Library exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark. Marion Richardson, an art teacher in the 1930s, is mentioned in Philip Hensher’s book The Missing Ink because she concentrates on the pleasurable pattern making needed to encourage children to enjoy writing. A book by Rosemary Sassoon currently lent by me to a 9 year old neighbour carries some of her ideas further with some wonderful suggestions.

We never know what it might be useful to know so should perhaps agree with Dr Seuss that The more you know the further you go.




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