Growing up, this phrase must have been said to me a hundred times by teachers. True, I am rather old. False, it was not in the ages of quill and ink pot. However, I do recall having to use the dreaded fountain pens; the ink-stained fingers, the blotches on our books, and the whip of the cane if you failed to write in cursive handwriting (and that is true!). The most difficult part to master was writing in a speed that would allow just enough ink on the page. Too slow and it left blotches, too fast and it did not write clearly. Thinking back, it taught us to be meticulous, to think before we inked.
In days gone by we could not just easily delete what we inked. There was no delete button, no backspace tab – we genuinely had to think once, twice and thrice before we inked, before we committed our thoughts to permanence.
Now, I believe we need to return to this phrase for our modern youth. They need to think before they ink just as we have in past.
Today the ink is in the form of an image on a screen, a text message, an Instagram post, a Facebook comment, a Snapchat utterance, a TikTok video… Today we don’t have to worry how slow or fast we ink as we did with the old fountain pens, we simply just press send and the rest is done for us. Today our youth, and dare I say adults too, fail to understand that, despite the delete button, the text sent via a screen is permanent too. Once committed to the send button (once we “ink the page”), it remains in circulation forever. No delete button can erase it, although most youngsters and adults today think it does. It is inked in space, as a record, forever.
Thinking before we ink digitally seems to me more important now than ever before, for everyone. Life would be so much happier, and far less people would be emotionally hurt. Think, think again, think it over and only then ink (press send).
There is also the question of resilience – a prized characteristic for employees today. How are we teaching our youth resilience if they can type anything and seemingly erase it with one press of a button? That’s not allowing them to commit to resilient thought processes – that’s just teaching them a myth that you can fix a mistake easily afterwards. Sadly, that’s the real danger and fault with the send button. A resilient thinker would hold back from engaging in an inappropriate snapchat or hurtful social media dialogue. Resilience should be thinking before you ink.
One of the reasons why I am so determined to ensure that all children have as much time in art, food and design and technology lessons is that they are forced to think before they ink. Put the wrong ingredients in and the cake is a flop. Rush using the saw and you have a joint that does not work. Fail to think about which media to use in art and you will not be able to deliver the end product you want.
I am definitely not supportive of bringing back the quill and feather, but definitely of bringing back the mentality of think before you ink.