As I state in the first item I posted today, the bias against and forced hand switching of left handed children is the original “reparative therapy”, a form of emotional, physical and mental abuse. If you’re against “reparative therapy” being imposed upon LGBTQIA people, why aren’t you against it being imposed upon left handed children? (And if you aren’t against “reparative therapy”, what’s wrong with you?)
Left handedness is natural and almost certainly genetic. Even if it is not genetic and a matter of choice, how is it harmful to a child? Violence and abuse are the harm. Let kids be.
Below the fold are three sections. The first is on good science and positive news items, enlightened minds and unbiased articles. The second is on bad science, with some commentary from me. The this are reports of abuses that left handed children are subjected to.
Science and News Articles On Left Handedness
Quackery is often what happens when “science” based on personal beliefs rather than collecting facts. Lysenkoism, phrenology, and “left handed criminals” all spawn from the same ignorance.
But discriminatory practices and attitudes against left-handers persisted well into the 20th Century. At mid-century, eminent American psychoanalyst Abram Blau was still suggesting that left-handedness was merely due to perversity and the result of emotional negativism, on a par with a child’s obstinate refusal to eat everything on its plate. As adults, Blau asserted, left-handers became stubborn, rebellious, rigid and (for some reason) obsessed with cleanliness. Around the same time, the influential British educational psychologist Cyril Burt was also describing left-handers as “stubborn and willful” as well as “awkward” and “clumsy”.
It was only in the Post-War years, under the influence of John Dewy’s progressive education movement, that a certain amount of tolerance for individual differences and non-conformity developed. But, even then, indeed as late as the 1960s and 1970s, Catholic school teachers in particular routinely inflicted corporal punishment and psychological pressure on left-handed students, ranging from accusations of being in cahoots with the Devil to, bizarrely, being Communist.
Soviet bloc countries continued to maintain strict policies against left-handedness that persisted well into the 1970s. Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia and the Iron Curtain countries all made right-handed writing compulsory in school. In Albania, left-handedness was actually declared illegal and was punishable as a crime.
Even in the relatively open-minded and informed society of today, parents and teachers may encourage a left-handed child to switch out of the best of motives, such as a genuine desire to make their lives easier in a largely right-handed world. The children themselves may impose their own peer pressure to conform to majority norms, and a good percentage of natural left-handers tell of their own self-inflicted attempts to switch hands during childhood.
The Lancet’s article describes the damaged caused by unfounded and baseless opinions about left handedness.
For the Zulus of South Africa, eating with the left hand was taboo. “If a child should eat porridge with its left hand”, wrote British anthropologist Dudley Kidd in 1906, “the people place both of the hands of the child into the hot porridge as an object lesson”. Kidd explained that for the Zulus “the left hand is used for mean purposes, such as scraping away dirt, and so it must not be used for other purposes”. Like the Zulus, many north and east African peoples attempted to “cure” left-handedness. Similar practices have been identified by anthropologists in many other indigenous cultures. There were, however, exceptions. Writing in the American Anthropologist in 1898, Daniel Brinton found tolerance towards left-handers in Native American cultures. Others have pointed to similar acceptance by the Arrernte people of central Australia. Thus, a complicated picture emerges in which early human cultures, like current ones, reveal ambivalence towards left-handedness, suggesting that suppression of left-handedness serves specific cultural agendas.
[…]According to psychologist Lauren J Harris, by the second decade of the 20th century, a number of educators began to suspect that the practice of retraining left-handers had negative life-long consequences, especially resulting in stuttering among the retrained. Three studies of thousands of south London school children by J P Ballard were published in an obscure pedagogical journal in 1911–12, but these findings received wide exposure in the influential 1914 textbook, The Hygiene of the School Child, by Stanford University psychologist Lewis M Terman. Based on his examination of Ballard’s data, Terman concluded that a third to half “of the stuttering among London school children is produced in the effort to make right-handed children out of those who are normally left-handed”. This evidence, Terman told his readers, proved that “left-handed children should remain left-handed” and that “the slight advantages that accrue from the change are entirely outweighed by the dangers to speech”.
Many points in this article are reminiscent of experiences I’ve seen with children in South Korea, Taiwan, and elsewhere.
I can vividly remember the euphoria that came with gripping a fresh set of crayons, each color filling the void of blank papers with strokes I thought were genius. The world was at my fingertips, and with school starting the following year, I was ready to write my name.
There’s just one problem: I had been using my left hand.
Coming from a Chinese-Filipino family, this was a big no-no. My recollection from one day in summer when I was forced to use my right hand to write “Carl” was all fuzzy, save for a long, wooden stick that struck my left hand every time I tried to help myself.
Eventually, I spent more time practicing. I have no idea how long it took before I fully adjusted, but today I can tell that this sentence was typed by my right hand. I had been converted.
This irrational suspicion has apparently dissipated much more quickly in the West, where businesses are now looking into the untapped market that is the lefty’s needs. In London, a store called Anything Left-Handed sprung in 1968 to sell just as its name says; San Francisco’s Lefty’s opened 10 years later.
Unfortunately, lefties seem to have far more troubles if they live in Asia, where superstitious beliefs somehow survive in households with breakneck internet speeds. In South Korea, for instance, left-handedness has long been associated with impurity — giving or receiving items must be accomplished by the right or both hands.
Anything coming out of the mass murdering dictatorship (MMD, aka PRC) is dubious, but this might have some merit.
Before entering the subway, Lin Pan swiped his transit card on the machine, only to have the gate next to him open－a common nuisance he encounters as a left-hander.
“We are living in a world for right-handers,” Lin said. “The shutter on the camera is on the right, the mouse of the computer, the accelerator of a vehicle, the design of scissors－all these are mostly based on the habits of right-handers.”
He started a website, Left-Handed China (zuopiezi.org), in 2013 to speak for his fellow lefties. The website posts articles and research on left-handedness and collects complaints from left-handed people.
“My teacher used to try to force me into using my right hand, and I often feel nervous when I deal with changes in my life,” Lin said.
Even now, Lin sometimes receives calls from parents concerned about their kids’ “unusual” habits.
“Some parents call me and say their children experience a lot of inconveniences at school. I persuade them to give up the idea of correcting their kids’ left-handed habits,” he said.
From Smithsonian Magazine:
There are still some pretty annoying things about being left-handed. But in America, at least, we’ve mostly stopped forcing lefties to learn to use their right hand. That’s not the case everywhere, though. China, for example, claims that less than one percent of students are left-handed. If that were true, it would be strange: the global average of lefties comes in at 10-12 percent. A study in the journal Endeavor recently took on this question: Why are there no left-handers in China? The researchers also looked at India and Islamic countries and discovered that nearly two-thirds of the world’s lefty population faces discrimination.
There’s nothing special about the genetics of people living in China that makes them less likely to be lefties. Chinese-Americans are just as likely to be left handed as any other Americans. The lefties in China are actually switching their dominant hands. Why? Because it’s simply more difficult for them to stick with their naturally dominate hand than for people in Europe of the United States. Many Chinese characters require a right hand, says Discovery News.
Elsewhere, stigma against lefties still exists. Discovery News reports:
In many Muslim parts of the world, in parts of Africa as well as in India, the left hand is considered the dirty hand and it’s considered offensive to offer that hand to anyone, even to help. The discrimination against lefties goes back thousands of years in many cultures, including those of the West.
Even though violence in Japan against left handed chilren has abated, the mental and emotional intimidation to conform remains.
Takeshi Hatta, professor of neuropsychology at Kansai University of Welfare Sciences, said parents used to resort to methods such as putting hot pepper on a child’s left hand or tying it up, but studies show that the practice of changing children’s handedness was no longer the norm in Japan by the 1970s.
But that doesn’t mean it has entirely disappeared.
In an online questionnaire on southpaws conducted by The Japan Times in the lead-up to International Left-Handers Day on Monday, respondents included several Japanese in their 20s who said they were told by parents and teachers to write and eat with their right hand.
But whether or not they are free to use their dominant hand, left-handers have to live in a world where a great many devices are designed for right-handers. These range from pens, spiral notebooks and scissors to wristwatches, vending machines and ticket gates.
Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they feel inconvenienced when using such items.
The stationery store in Sagamihara responds to their needs with about 100 types of goods customized for lefties, including ladles, can openers, rulers, pencil sharpeners, playing cards and Japanese teapots.
As I stated elsewhere, some regions are more enlightened than others when it comes to left handedness.
Rates of left-handedness vary by region of the world and even by region within countries. Population studies indicate that more left-handers reside in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand than in South America. Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States show regional differences in the incidence of left-handedness. For example, Italians living in the north of Italy are more likely to be left-handed than those living in the south. The rates of left-handedness rise as one moves from the eastern European countries to those in the west of the continent. One can expect to find more left-handers in France than in Russia, for example.
There are historical as well as geographical fluctuations in the prevalence of left-handedness. Substantial archaeological evidence indicates that the two types of human handedness, right and left, have existed for millennia. Through the centuries, right-handedness has remained the majority human handedness type with left-handedness continuing as a consistent minority presence of about 10%. However, there was a drop in the prevalence of left-handedness in the 19th century when rates fell to historic lows of 2-4% of the population. What accounted for this precipitous reduction in rates of left-handedness?
The rate of handedness conversion and related factors in left-handed children.
Department of Occupational Therapy, Institute of Clinical Behavioral Science, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan. firstname.lastname@example.orgAbstractThe rate of handedness conversion was 2.7% to 11.8% in prior studies based on the total population including innately right-handed people. However, the conversion rate of innately left-handed people has not been reported. The purpose of this study was to investigate the percentage of handedness conversion in children who are innately left-handed.
The claim of “Tunisian right-hand writers, although they probably included some children who might not have been right-handed without the cultural pressure, were not less consistent than French right-hand writers” comes without evidence, and very likely a bias that right handedness is “normal” while left handedness isn’t.
Cultural influences on the development of lateral preferences: a comparison between French and Tunisian children.
Fagard J1, Dahmen R.
Laboratoire Cognition et Développement, CNRS, UMR-8605, 71 avenue Edouard Vaillant, 92774 Boulogne Billancourt Cedex, France. email@example.com
These results may indicate that cultural pressure influences handedness at an early age, perhaps by leading towards right-handedness in children whose genetic background might otherwise have induced a chance-determined pattern of handedness.
I don’t question this BioMedSearch item or its conclusions. What I do question is the faulty and uneducated claim that “left handed people die younger.” while ignoring the fact that in decades past, left handed children were regularly abused (forced hand switching). There are “fewer left handers” amongst 60+ year old people because they were forced to switch. Those natural left handers are still alive, but are erroneously being counted as right handers, skewing the percentages of both groups.
We examined mortality associated with handedness in two ways. A simulation using national data suggests that lower mean age at death among left-handed persons, previously offered as evidence of higher mortality, can be explained exclusively by the age distribution of laterality. Second, empiric evidence from a 6-year cohort study of 3774 older adults from East Boston, Massachusetts, demonstrates that left-handedness is not associated with mortality (relative odds = 1.04, 95% confidence interval = 0.79, 1.36).
In 1935, a buffoon by the name of J.W. Conway wrote a piece of unscientific garbage entitled, “The Prevention And Correction of Left-Handedness In Children”, with the subtitle, ““On Curing the Disability and Disease of Left-Handedness”.
In 1924, another inept individual named William Inman publishe The Mental Sorrows of Left-Handedness, (1924)by Dr. William. S. Inman was published as an article in The Lancet on the causes of left-handedness, stammer, and squint, labelling left handedness a “disease”.
Stories of Abuse Against Left Handed Children
In 2014, Jon McCourt told the Historical Abuse Inquiry about abuse he suffered at the hands of nuns. Children of catholic parents could not attend public schools due to sectarianism, giving the catholics free reign over their victims.
Jon McCourt, a high profile campaigner to get the inquiry set up, has waived his right to anonymity.
He also told the inquiry that he did not realise two other boys in a photograph were his brothers.
The inquiry is investigating abuse claims against children’s residential institutions in NI from 1922 to 1995.
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.”
“Jim” (not the man’s real name) gave a statement to the Australian government’s investigation into sexual abuses. Jim was a child in the 1950s, and was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse by a teacher. Jim suspects the fact that he is left handed provided his abused the exuse.
Jim was singled out and victimised by his primary school teacher, Mr Richardson, for no reason other than he happened to be left-handed.
‘If he saw me writing left-handed’, Jim told the Commissioner, ‘he’d pull my hand over the edge of the desk, and he had a three-foot ruler with a metal edge in it – a dozen times over the knuckles’.
It was the mid-1950s and Jim was nine years old. For the next three years he endured increasingly violent attacks from Mr Richardson. One sweltering day, Richardson ‘decided he was going to punish me a bit further’. The teacher dragged Jim out of the classroom, told him to take off his shoes and socks and then tied him to the flagpole in the hot sun. ‘And my toes could just touch the hot bitumen. He left me up there for an hour.’
I strongly suspect that while left handedness was hated by religious fanatics, they viewed and used it as a pretext for violence against children who could easily be “blamed for their own acts”.
I recently spent time with a woman from the United Kingdom who is a vocal human rights advocate. As I was listening to her deliver her talking points, mostly in defense of women, LGBT people and immigrants, she touched on a topic that specifically piqued my attention- something I had been entirely oblivious too, but actually existed until the late 70’s.
We’ll call her Mary. Mary was enrolled in a Methodist school at the age of 3. It was a pre-school, prior to entry to kindergarten where teachers would mold the young children to behave in a fashion that was appropriate to their religious doctrine.
Part of the standard discipline during those formative years meant reprimanding children for being left handed. That punishment including beating the left hands of children with objects such as canes, sticks, even slamming books onto their fingers in order to “train” them to use their right hand, not only write with, but conduct any activity with, including throw a ball, play an instrument, raise their hand to respond to a question, use a food utensil or even shake hands. To use your left hand was considered a cardinal sin. An indication of a tainted soul.
What occurred in religiously aligned schools in the 60’s was nothing more than state sanctioned abuse. It was an openly expressed intolerance for children- and adults- whose persuasion was to write with their left hand. To compound the senseless beatings, typically in front of their peers, they were isolated, publicly humiliated and treated as lessers by comparison to right-handed students.
Mary explains this abuse lasted years. She was forced to learn to write with her right hand to avoid persecution, and worse, avoid suspicion that her spirit was influence by the forces of evil. Outside the school environment, the local population also applied rigorous stigma to left-handed individuals, both adults and children. Rampant superstition motivated by religious teachings provoked fear of left-handed people within their communities. Engaging with a left handed individual was perceived as bad luck. Unconsciously using your left hand to point, or even wave was considered a rude gesture and often provoked retaliatory violence.
A rare bright spot: The arrest of a nun after years of abuses she committed.
Police Scotland said on Friday, a 76-year-old woman has now been charged in connection ‘with the non-recent abuse of children’. Eleven women and one man, aged between 62 and 85, have already been arrested as part of an investigation into the orphanage at the Lanark home which was run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul until it closed in 1981.
Other accounts of his time at the home include a worker touching boys’ genitals to ‘check’ if they had wet the bed and being beaten for being left-handed. [my emphasis]