Touching Type

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Worst jobs in history
There is a television show hosted by Tony Robinson about the worst jobs in history. These included leech collector,  plague victim gravedigger, gong farmer and sin-eater. Many of these jobs were eradicated through advances in technology, expertise and medicine (who needs a leech collector when you’ve got needles and drugs?) Many of these jobs were apprentice or trade based whilst others were skills passed down through families.

The devaluing of practical subjects?
Schools have now taken over the role of teaching and learning.  They also decide what is or isn’t an employable skill. Hence, subjects including maths and science are always represented (often driven by university entrance scores) whilst others are neglected. For this reason the more hands-on technical subjects –  such as art, languages, woodworking, home economics and carpentry –  suffer at the hands of school boards and leadership teams. Some of these subjects disappear due to time constraints, lack of staff or interest, or simply because schools assume they will no longer be required in the future.

What I learnt at high school
When I recall the years I spent at high school, the most useful and employable skill I ever learned was touch typing. The subject, mostly undertaken by girls, was an asset despite the stereotype of women in a secretarial pool on manual typewriters in cavernous offices.

Yet, despite its lack of glamour, I’ve found the ability to type without looking at the keyboard has been invaluable personally and professionally. When I was travelling I found regular employment temping in offices because I could type. I got a job as a journalist because I could write and type on an Apple Mac. I’ve tapped away on long texts, manuscripts and endless letters. I’ve typed university essays, correspondence with friends and lots of blog posts. I’ve even been complimented on being able to touch type, stare straight at a colleague and keep a conversation going all at the one time.

Touch typing is a useful skill
Unfortunately, touch typing is no longer taught at most schools. Several  assumptions are to blame including the idea that students can teach themselves by using a software program or that they don’t need the skills anymore because of voice recognition software.  The biggest assumption of all is that jobs involving touch typing will cease to exist.

These assumptions are all completely wrong.

Touch typing is still a valuable skill for many reasons. As far as I’m aware, no voice recognition software matches the speed and accuracy of a well-trained typist. Nor have jobs like journalism been taken over by speaking to a computer.  I’ve yet to meet a student who uses voice software instead of typing their assignments and secretaries and personal assistants haven’t been replaced.

I watch others fumble with two fingers, slowly constructing sentences whilst staring at the keyboard.  I’m glad I’m not one of them. Some skills should never be phased out on a whim. Typing is not one of the worst jobs in history and deserves recognition for being a useful life skill.

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Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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