When you belong to a dominant segment of culture, it can be hard to recognize the biases which exist against those in the minority. Sometimes a movement or "waves" as they are called in women's studies is required to bring enlightenment to the masses. Still, the most obvious biases escape from our view, hiding out right under our noses, until the day we wake up, possibly ashamed, wondering why we never noticed. Even in grammar school, children are now learning about the biases against women, people of ethnicity, those in minority religions, or with non-hetero gender identities. But how many learn about the biases against the left handed? I, myself, am totally right-handed, but some of the most important people in my life are not. My grandmother, who I always believed had the most beautiful handwriting on earth, was a left hander born in the forties. She tells gruesome tales of being persecuted and physically punished by teachers. Not to mention, the Catholic religious biases against the "left" in general. Angels rest on our right shoulders, but the left -- we all know what that space is for. Since then, I'd like to think we've come a long way from the days when nuns could smack children with rulers for writing with their dominant hand. Unfortunately, while the plight of left handers is not so obviously cruel, there is still cruelty built into the biased system.
According to many studies, the left handed are more prone to back, neck, and other bone/muscle related problems than their counterparts. Why? Because everything in our society is created for use by right handers. It starts at childhood: writing utensils, notebooks, scissors; not to mention the fact that our language itself is written from left to right. Now, writing with the left hand is tolerated; yet, many teachers do not realize that teaching these children handwriting the way they teach right handed children is not enough. My boyfriend, another left hander, writes with his wrist in a painful-looking arched contortion so that he can "see what he is writing" as he writes. Otherwise, his wrist will cover what he has just penned to paper. He wonders why he has wrist problems. No one ever taught him that it is ok to tilt the page up to the right, instead of the left like a right hander. Back then, no one had computers, or the internet to just pull up research on the subject. Today, there is a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into if we know how to spot the marks of a reliable source (cited references, etc.). Even busy teachers can now find tips to help their left handed students in a matter of minutes. So, I'm encouraging all you other teachers out there! Please, don't forget your left-handed students.