The failure of schools to teach typing

We had a family get-together this weekend at my parents’ house. My youngest relative is eleven years old. He and his family live in Virginia. I ended up watching him for a bit while they were over. He was looking at me typing away at my computer and was awed by how fast I could type; he said it seems like it should come out as little more than gibberish, but there on the monitor perfectly meaningful sentences were appearing (I can type at over 100 words per minute when I really get going).

Later, he was showing me something on YouTube, and I noticed with horror that he doesn’t know how to type! He was hunting-and-pecking at the keys with two fingers. He couldn’t type one-tenth as fast as I can. No wonder he was amazed earlier when he saw me typing. It got me to thinking — in this day and age, how does it get to the point that an eleven year old doesn’t know how to touch type? What exactly are they learning in school? Computers are pervasive in today’s society. Learning to type isn’t exactly hard, yet it offers immediate and lifelong rewards. You don’t need an expensive program or anything, you just need a program, and many are free. What’s more important than learning how to properly use computers, knowing that America’s youth use them several hours per day?

I learned to type at the age of ten back in fifth grade. The school had one computer lab that was full of Apple IIs. Those computers had monochrome green monitors and lacked hard drives. We had to insert a bootable “learn to type” floppy diskette into the computer before turning it on. And the computer lab was busy enough that we could only go there once a week, but still, that’s how we learned to type. Later, in sixth grade, I took my first proper computer science course, and that’s when I became a really good typist.

So I thus find it inexcusable that, eleven years later, with much better computer hardware and a much greater penetration of personal computers across all of society, students aren’t learning how to type. Admittedly we were on the vanguard of computer education in learning how to type that early, but eleven years later, everyone should be learning it. My cousin also remarked to me that they no longer teach cursive in schools, which I kind of feel saddened over but I do understand it (even though I still use cursive exclusively on those rare occasions that I need to write down anything of sizable length). But there is no excuse whatsoever for this saddening lack of proper computer instruction. Learning how to write in cursive should have been replaced with learning how to type, not removed altogether.

So I’m wondering when my cousin is ever going to learn how to type. Each day that he goes through life without that essential skill marks another day of missed opportunities. I certainly wouldn’t be writing blog posts like these, or anything recreational of real length, if my typing speed was ten times slower than what it currently is. Not knowing how to type is a huge barrier to the intelligent use of computers, leaving those afflicted with patience for little more than typing in keywords to search on YouTube. Not knowing how to type is a huge barrier towards becoming a good writer, a skill I’ve found incredibly useful. After all, learning how to write well simply takes practice. If practice takes frustratingly long just to write out a single paragraph, with so many thoughts going through one’s head that can never make it onto the monitor, learning suffers.

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