Autumn’s Left Hand

Thomas Ulmet is Midwest Regional Chapter Coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

Thom_7-1-14I never much thought about what it must be like to be a left-handed person in a right-handed world. Of course I remember the Simpson’s character Ned Flanders and his Leftorium, a store with left-handed items. And eating out with my good friend Kyle meant he always sits at the left edge of the table.

But seeing all the interesting posts, articles and comments that came out this week for Left Handers Day (August 13) made me think a little more about what how my lefty daughter will fit into a world made for righties.

She’s part of the 10% of humanity who are naturally left-handed, a percentage that really hasn’t changed since our ancestors lived in caves. So while the overwhelming majority of us design a world that works best for right hands, including the can opener and the computer mouse, she will have to adapt to do some of the everyday tasks I take for granted. When she uses markers she gets ink all over the side of her palm, not yet mastering the writing from above technique that so many of my left-handed friends employ. She’s the only left-handed person in the family, though it is possible my father, who did some things naturally with his left hand, might have been a lefty if he had been allowed to learn to write with that hand by his teachers.

I am pretty confident that any future teacher will not be too bothered about her left-handedness, and may even make some interventions to ensure she is adequately supported (assigned seats so the left hand doesn’t interfere with her tablemate, having a pair of lefty scissors). It might even be helpful for that future teacher to read up about some of the research on southpaws. Research has found there are a number of genetic differences between left-handed and right-handed people. One post I read mentioned scientists have even suggested that left-handedness needs to be accounted for in scientific research, where this category has usually been ignored in research subjects, because of these genetic differences. I hope that her teacher will not reinforce the idea that she is clumsy, which studies show is how many left-handed people describe themselves. Personally I think my left-handed daughter is pretty perfect, though a little sinister at times.

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