Children Left Behind: Why talking about left handedness matters

Last year on my old blog site I posted a seven part series on left handedness. Part three of the series focused on social discrimination and violence against left handed children because they are at greatest risk and need, but have no one to speak for them unlike other minorities.

Children lack the voice to speak out, lack the knowledge of their civil protections, the life experience to solve problems, the money to buy specialized needs, the strength to defend themselves against the opinion of family, school and society.  Compared to children, left handed adults don’t have problems.

Violence against left handed kids has been common throughout history. Here is an excerpt from Chris McManus’s 2002 book, “Right Hand, Left Hand”:

Looking further afield, geographically and historically, soon reveals how discrimination against left-handers can take many forms from the systematic and the oppressive to the subtle but nonetheless effective. Among the most extreme are the Zulus of southern Africa who,

if a child should seem to be naturally left-handed, pour boiling water into a hole in the earth and place the child’s left hand in the hole, ramming the earth down around it; by this means the left hand becomes so scalded that the child is….

Put a child’s left hand in BOILING WATER so the hand is permanently damaged and can’t be used. That’s the “cure” for left handedness? Why not just cut the hand off with an axe instead? It would be faster and less painful, and make the arm just as useless.

Some might mistakenly think I’m speaking solely about (and thus demeaning) non-white countries in Africa and Asia or islamic nations. These mentalities are still common across eastern Europe and Latin America. I put up with many of the same abuses in a Canadian public elementary schools and at home in the 1970s.  Back when Ireland and its schools were run by the catholic cult in the 1960s, abuse was normalized:

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Boy punished for being ‘left-handed’

Jon McCourt, a high profile campaigner to get the inquiry set up, has waived his right to anonymity.


He told the inquiry on Thursday: “I remember, when I was about five years old, being constantly beaten by one particular nun, to get me to stop writing with my left hand.”

He said this was a common practice at the time before adding: “They were messing up with how we were wired.”

Even in countries where “corporal punishment” is illegal, violence against children goes on.  I witnessed and tried to stop ear twisting and stress positions at a hagwonUNICEF reports that violence against children is still legal – and lethal – in Malaysia, a country with a strong stigma against left handedness.  A child died at the hands of a teacher early this year and in early August a girl suffered three broken fingers after being hit with a broom, among other abuses(Granted, none of these reports mention the children being left handed, but the key issue is violence against the defenceless.)

Have you ever noticed Barack Obama’s atrocious hook handed writing position? Mine used to be worse. He talked about his childhood, being beaten at school in Indonesia:

Obama: In Indonesia, ‘I Would Get Hit With Rulers’ for Writing With Left Hand

President Obama, who is left handed, revealed today in Israel that as a kid in Indonesia, he “would get hit with rulers” for writing with his left hand. From the pool report:


While Obama, a lefty, signed, he talked with Sara some more. “Michelle, she’s a right hander. I’m trying to work on it.”

Then Obama told a story: “When I was in Indonesia, it was considered bad manners (writing with left hand). “Even though I would get hit with rulers, I just stuck with it,” he explained.

Several recent US presidents may have been left handed, but that no more “proves” there is no anti-left hand bias in the world than a black US president proves there’s no racism in the US.


  1. colinday says

    Hmm. . I attended a Catholic school from 1968-1974 and I don’t recall any attempt to alter my left-handed writing.

    • jrkrideau says

      Ontario catholic school in late 1950’s and early 1960s and while I am right-handed no pressure on left-handed to change. Teacher actually discussed early and damaging attempts to do so and why it was wrong.

      I had thought it had died out in the 1930s or ’40s.

  2. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I went to a Baptist school in Ontario in the late 80s, and I got a metal edged ruler across the back of the hand every time I was caught writing with my left. Still have some faint scars to this day. I’m still a lefty, but I can write legibly with both hands. Its a neat trick, but not worth the pain I went thru to learn it.