Pondering handedness: no, it’s not ‘easier’ in the long run.

8 Feb

Leonardo da Vinci's writing sample: right to left

Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, if a convenient one) tells me that for every ten human beings on the planet, only about one of them will be left handed. While I can’t vouch for this, it seems fairly accurate going by my own experience as a lefty.

Leaving aside a long history of negative connotations (sinister–really?) and being thankful that these days in most developed societies it is less common to force children to ‘be’ right handed by teaching them to write with their less dominant hand, there should be very little of note about being a leftie.

For the most part, left handed people have learned to compensate living in a right handed world–from scissors to notebooks, most of what we use every day is designed for the majority of the population. This makes economic sense, obviously, but it’s not necessarily easy on those who make up the minority. For example, try using a regular trigger ice cream scoop with your left hand.

Still, most of us lefties adapt fairly well, and in many cases attain a level of dexterity with both hands that is very useful.

I have found it interesting that there is still a push to maintain the status quo–of all places, in knitting. I wrote about this before, mostly as a quaint little non-issue. Bottom line, I does not affect me in any tangible way that some people out there think my knitting is inferior or backward.

But just this weekend, there was a request at CraftGossip for knitting tutorials aimed specifically at lefties that provoked at much stronger reaction.

The request itself simply says, “Looking for resources to teach a pre-teen left hander how to knit and crochet,” and goes on to say that the first impulse is to teach them right handed.

Other than my own comment, most of the replies–even from lefties–encouraged this solution as the easiest (“because it’s easier to read patterns/learn new stitches” or “because otherwise you have to change the placement of buttonholes in cardigans”).

Me, I’m…well, horrified may be too strong a statement, but definitely unhappy, and troubled.

Some of us have a very, very strong drive to use one of hand over the other, particularly for precision tasks, and forcing us to use the other hand can be very damaging. While I don’t know this from first hand experience, I saw it in my own father. Back in the 1930s, my grandfather broke my father’s left pinky in order to force him to learn to write with his right hand. For the rest of his life writing was difficult for him and his efforts were largely illegible, even to him.

Reading some more here (beware: the color scheme throughout the pagest makes this a struggle), I’m very saddened that, as recently at a decade ago, there were still elementary school teachers and even parents who would discriminate against left handed children.

Here is what Janis Cortese has to say about that, here (scroll down to the advice section):

I’ve heard a lot of stories about parents who want their kids to be right-handed because “it’s easier in life to be right-handed, and besides, it’s not like it really matters” as if they can just rewire their kids’ brains. The kid then is smacked or punished for using their left hand, the kid starts doing poorly in school, the kid screams and kicks up a huge stink — shouldn’t this clue the parents in that no, this is not just something that doesn’t matter that you can change at will? If you could change a child’s handedness as if it were nothing, then you wouldn’t have so many kids with dyslexia and stuttering who had it tried on them. You wouldn’t have kids cutting school, you wouldn’t have kids screaming like banshees during dinner when you take the fork out of their left hand. Your kids demonstrate with their unavoidable tendency to use their left hand that no, this is not something that is trivial to change, and yes, you are causing heartache and unnecessary pain and anguish by trying. Do you honestly think that the inconvenience of looking for a left-handed scissor when you’re 40 is really more severe than the inconvenience of stuttering or being dyslexic for the rest of your life because your parents or teachers tried to muck with your cognitive hardwiring?”

Thank you, Ms Cortese.

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One Response to “Pondering handedness: no, it’s not ‘easier’ in the long run.”

  1. Pat J 12/02/2012 at 7:46 AM #

    I’m a struggling left hand knitter who cringes whenever I read “teach them to use their right hand”… Really?? is it that easy? Obviously not for a dominant left handed person and someone who is a righty should stop using that hand & try using their left hand see how long it takes them to get frustrated Thanks!!

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