Sunday, October 7, 2012

Forced Right Handedness Update

Disclaimer:  I am right handed. 

But I have several close relatives that are left handed, my father for instance, and their complaints have created in me an interest in the subject.

Six years ago at my high school in Phrae I was teaching English to high school seniors.  In all of my classes there was a higher incidence of left handedness than one experiences in America these days.  In only one class there were fourteen left handed students out of forty-five.  Try duplicating that result in America, it can't be done.

In America, of course, we discourage left handedness in our children.  We attempt, successfully in most cases, to train naturally left handed children to use their right hands.  Who can tell what conflicts they are forced to live with after we cause them to go against their natures like this.  We, the people who do such things, believe that we are helping them.  Among other things, it will make it much easier for them to rent golf clubs some day.  

Five years ago I moved to a teaching position at a Bangkok university, and one of my recurring tasks is proctoring tests.  In these huge rooms I have always scanned for lefties.  At first there were quite a few; more recently the numbers have declined sharply.  I have attributed this to the arrival of forced right handedness in Thailand, at least in Bangkok.  The arrival, I should say, some time ago when these newer students were children, lets say around 1990.

This week I witnessed the return of lefties with a vengeance, but only in one subject.  All week, scanning the rooms, there were very few left handed students.  I could look and look, day after day, and find only two or three in my half of the room.  Saturday, though, we were proctoring a test in the major for Thai language studies, an advanced class in Thai linguistics.  These students are training to become teachers of Thai.  In every row taking this test there were several lefties; I easily counted to ten standing in one place.  (Only every other row was taking the Thai test.  The rows are alternated with different tests for obvious reasons.  The rows taking the other tests had almost no left handed students.)  The rows for the Thai test throughout the entire room were liberally sprinkled with lefties.

Why should this be the case?  Is there something about the subject of language and linguistics that might draw the interest of someone who uses his or her brain the way a left handed person does?  Could the reversing of the "usual" roles of the brain hemispheres that is found in left handed people  drive a child to different interests?  I mean, it showed up in only this one subject area, mustn't there be a reason for such a thing?

Another mystery to add to the list of the Mysteries of the Universe That Will Probably Never Be Solved.  

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