My wife stood at the kitchen table the other day separating coins for a lesson she was preparing for her kindergarten students. She divided the change into piles, separating the great silver discs of quarters from the dimes and nickels, finding a space in the corner for that midget of a copper afterthought, the penny. As I watched her work, I found myself wondering the point of learning such an increasingly-obsolete skill as counting change. After all, my pennies usually end up massed in the cup-holder of my car or orphaned in a dresser drawer, and most of my transactions take place electronically, with 1’s and 0’s substituting for the metal coins and paper bills.
I’ve also wondered the same thing about learning handwriting, a mountain which both my children have labored so mightily to climb. Why suffer over the proper formation of a “q” or a “g” when punching the keys on a laptop produces the same result? So much of our communication these days is electronic, and voice-activated communication seems to be the wave of the future, it seems.
But the more I think about these seemingly-vestigial practices, the more I am reminded of how blessedly tactile they are.