Saturday, August 5, 2017

Left Handers Day 2017, part 3

August 13th is International Left Handers Day.

This is part three, the last of the series.  Due to facebook's incompetence and poor site I am posting this here.

This is divided into four comments posted below:

1) Where to get left handed stationery and goods.

2) Role models and famous left handers.

3) Examples of abuse and discrimination against left handers, present and past.  You definitely need a TW for this one.

4) The lie that left handedness is a "first world problem".

I hope these posts change a few people's minds.  Kids deserve the best education possible.  Being a minority is not justification for impediments caused by a selfish and inconsiderate majority.


Websites and stores that sell left handed products

Schools should provide supplies for left handed students, but don't due to the right handed privilege of the majority.  (If that term triggers you, take a breath and keep reading.)

These links are for school administrators enlightened enough to think, for teachers considerate and caring enough, and most importantly for parents who want their children to succeed in school.  Pass these links onto other teachers, parents and administrators, and let them know that such products exist.

In Taiwan, I have encouraged lefty students to start using Pilot Kakuno fountain pens which are sold in some stationery stores.  They take getting used to (i.e. the ink takes time to dry) but they're much easier to write with if you're left handed.

Ball point pens are designed to be pulled by right handed people, and they jam when pushed by left handed writers.  Writers of right to left languages like arabic and hebrew prefer fountain pens for the same reason: ball point pens jam up.  (Funny thing, countries that write in arabic and hebrew are some of the most oppressive towards to left handedness.)

This is not an exhaustive list of sites, there may be others.  Surprisingly, you can find left handed scissors for kids in Taiwan, though not scissors for adults. 

1) Left Handed Specialty Stores

These stores sell a variety of products for left handed people.
  • educational materials (e.g. books on handwriting)
  • stationery (pens, rulers, folders, geometry sets, etc.)
  • housewares (knives, can openers, gardening tools)
  • watches (the dial on the left of the face)
  • musical instruments and supplies
  • novelty items (e.g. mugs that face a left handed user)
  • entertainments (playing cards for the left hand)
Left Shop Online, UK

Lefty's Australia

Lefty's Left Handed

Anything Left Handed, UK

Left-Handed Convenience Malaysia

Left Handed New Zealand

2) Stationery only, various items:

Maped UK

3) Notebooks:

These companies sell books with the spine on the RIGHT side, not the left.  The left hand can rest comfortably on the table, as righthanders do with most notebooks.

Imborrable, Spain

RS Paper Products

Rainbow Resource (yes, it's a "homeschool" company and run by fundy christians; I include it because there aren't many sources for left handed materials)

4) Pens:

These pages sell fountain pens, space pens and yoro pens, the latter designed specifically for left handed writers.  I have included only sites selling affordable pens.

Tools To Live By, Taiwan (online)
Tools To Live By, Taipei and Kaohsiung


Pen Heaven, UK

Jet Pens

TTS Group, UK


Pen Chalet

Sporting goods are easy to find, so I'm not listing any.  Left handedness an advantage in many sports (e.g. hockey, playing first base in baseball) so manufacturers make many products that are easily found.


The list of famous and important left handed people is long and full of significant names from ancient history (e.g. Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar) to the modern day.  It includes some of the greatest minds and achievers in history.  The idea that left handedness is an "impediment" to success is farcical.

There are unproven claims that left handed people have higher IQs and that we make more money.  But there is also the fact that left handed people cannot do certain jobs or produce as high a quality of work because equipment is made only for right handed people (e.g. industrial machinery).  And don't get me started on desks in schools and colleges, made solely for right handers....


Marie Curie (two Nobel prizes)
Charlie Chaplin
Mark Twain
Albert Einstein
Brian Kerninghan
Nicola Tesla

Business people:

Bill Gates
Mark Zuckerberg
Henry Ford

Artists, Musicians and Writers:

Leonardo da Vinci
Wolfgang Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
H.G. Wells
Cole Porter
M.C. Escher
Lewis Caroll
Vincent Van Gogh

Politicians and militarists:

Winston Churchill
Napoleon Bonaparte
Barack Obama
Bill Clinton
Ronald Regan
Herbert Hoover
John F. Kennedy
Harry Truman

Famous Left-Handers by M.K. Holder PhD, U of Indiana

Famous left handers from

Left Handed Wiki: Famous Left Handers Famous Lefties

The Guardian: One hundred famous left-handed people


A short history of abuse against left handed people:

Last year on this blog site (I blog elsewhere now) I posted a seven part series on left handedness.  Part three of the series focused on social discrimination and violence against left handed children.  Kids lack the voice to speak out, the money to buy things, the experience to solve problems, the strength to defend themselves.  By comparison, left handed adults don't have problems.

My blog page lists examples from all over the world, both from the past and where it's still happening today: Russia/USSR, Brazil, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Ghana.  You can find similar examples across all of eastern Europe, other African countries (Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, et al), Asia (China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Burma, et al) and South America.

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 it's permanently damaged and can't be used.  That's your "cure" for left handedness?  Why not just cut the hand off with an axe instead?  It would be faster and less painful.

In case you have the racist idea that this such barbarity is limited to Africa, Asia and islamic and other non-white countries, forget it.  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."
I had to put up with the same abuses in a Canadian public elementary school and at home, with religious fanatics for parents.  And that was in the 1970s.

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.
Most recent US presidents of the last 40 years 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.

Ignorant attitudes still persist today.

From the United Arab Emirate's official website, Washington, D.C.:

Traveling in a Muslim Country


The act of communal eating is a highly recognized outward expression of friendship in the Middle East.

- Do not eat with your left hand, which is considered unclean.
I will eat with my left hand and don't care if others don't like it.  (I have encountered anti-left hand attitudes in the Philippines and Thailand.)  If someone speaks ignorantly because I touch food with my left hand, I hand them food with the right.  Then when they eat, I tell them my right hand is my toilet hand. 

Their facial expressions are priceless.

UNICEF reports that violence against children is still common around the world:

In Ghana, an effort to abolish violent discipline in schools

ASSASSAN, Ghana, 3 September 2014 – When Benedicte Bon-Farson was a young girl in grade 3, she didn’t want to go to school. “Anytime I got up to go to school, I feel like, ahh!” she recalls, many years later.

Ms. Bon-Farson is left handed, and because of this, her grade 3 teacher constantly ‘caned’ her – punished her by hitting her with a cane.

“It took me a lot of pain to go through that one year,” she says.

Today, Ms. Bon-Farson teaches religion and moral education at Assassan Catholic School in the Ajumako District of central Ghana.

And she never uses a cane to discipline her pupils.
Similar attitudes extend to Haiti: "An Investigation Of The Perception Of Left-Handedness In Haitian Vodou", by Athena C. Patterson-Orazem, University of Florida.

India also views the left hand as the "dirty hand" in the same way as muslim countries do. 

How is being left-handed not right?

I remember the day when my mother was dumbfounded to see my daughter (who was then around two years old) invariably using her left hand for most of her activities. My poor mother reminisced the days when she struggled to convince the elders of the house that her daughter (myself) was left-handed and that there was nothing opprobrious about it but she failed miserably. She was sternly advised to change my natural inclination to use the left hand and fearing the repercussions of defying them, she coerced me into making me a right-hander.


After my hue and cry for the past three years in my family, my daughter has at last been permitted to use her left hand for most of the activities like writing and playing, barring a few like eating and serving. I feel it is very unfair to compel a left-handed child to eat with her right hand as having food is such an important activity of our daily life which is done with our heart and soul, relishing morsel by morsel, but my daughter is pressured and is not able to enjoy her food wholeheartedly. What a punishment for being a left-hander?
From Radio France International:

African lefties speak out on International Left-Handers Day

For some, they want to promote left-handedness because they weren’t allowed to use their left hand at school. That’s the case for Bernard Bogere Ssenkubuge, the founder of Keep Left Uganda based in Lugazi, outside of Kampala, the capital.

“It is a bit taboo in Uganda to be left handed, because your mother or parents at home would always beat the hand and say, ‘the left hand doesn’t eat’. In school, the teachers will still tap the hand of a child and say, ‘you are not supposed to write with your left hand’. So it is a problem,” he says.


Dieumerci Nugwaneza, another member of the Rwanda Left-Handers Club in Kigali, says that when he was in school, the teachers never explained how to write, but made them switch their hands.
Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) published a document called "What Is Witchcraft Abuse?"  Left handedness is considered "a sign of witchcraft". 

In England.  In 2009.

This is only part of the examples I have collected over time.  And that's without mentioning language bias, where every word for left is associated with ideas like awkward, weak, female, bad, evil, etc.  Right is associated with good, capable, correct.

One of the responses I get when trying to discuss left handedness (and especially when saying right handed privilege) is to call this a "first world problem". 

Are people really that stupid?  Apparently, yes.

"First world problem" is the last thing you can call the bias against left handed people.  "First world countries" don't beat children in schools anymore, don't call the left hand "dirty" or deem using the hand "disrespectful".

The only "first world problems" left handers face are in technology and mass manufacturing, but those also become developing world problems because technology gets exported to developing countries.  The other countries see it with no left handed options and then ignorantly say, "See, first world countries don't have left handedness either!"

Let's talk about phones, since everyone has them.

Apple's poorly made iphone 7 gets a weak signal or none at all if held in the left hand.  The iphone 6 didn't work either, nor did the iphone 4 or 3.  I suspect it was only by accident that the iphone 5 worked left handed, not a better design. What was Apple's arrogant and ignorant response to reports and news stories of poor reception? 

"Use your right hand." 

From, about the iphone7:
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Alicia Adamczyk
Sep 09, 2016

If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.

The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

Sep 09, 2016

If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.
The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.
The difference in efficacy happens because the antenna that receives radio signals is located in a different place in every phone model, and also depends on how the user holds the phone to their head during a call. According to Quartz, "iPhones are generally bad at transmitting signals, no matter which hand you use."

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

Sep 09, 2016

If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.
The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.
The difference in efficacy happens because the antenna that receives radio signals is located in a different place in every phone model, and also depends on how the user holds the phone to their head during a call. According to Quartz, "iPhones are generally bad at transmitting signals, no matter which hand you use."
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
From, about the iphone6:

Why Some Left-Handed People Are Having Big Problems With the iPhone

"The iPhone has never really been designed for lefties," said 23-year-old Kaitlyn Jakola, a Mic copy editor. (Many lefties in the Mic office noted issues with the iPhone.) To compensate, she devised a system to make her lefty life as easy as possible: employing both hands, using a Swype keyboard and using her right hand instead of her left to tap, among other things.

Except it all fell apart as soon as she downloaded iOS 9. "Before, it seemed like the iOS was designed for everybody," she said. "Now it seems expressly meant for use by right-handed people."
From, about the iphone4:
Some iPhone 4 models dropping calls when held left-handed, including ours (Update: Apple responds)
What's more annoying than spending hours lining up for a shiny new gadget? Learning that your precious phone can't actually connect to the network. Well, depending on how you hold it -- word has it that the iPhone 4's bottom-left corner isn't playing nice with your skin. If you recall from the keynote, that's where the Bluetooth / WiFi / GPS antenna meets its GSM / UMTS counterpart. So we decided to test on two brand new iPhone 4 handsets purchased today in the UK.

One iPhone 4 demonstrated the issue everytime it was held in our left hand (as a right-handed person is apt to do) so that our palm was essentially bridging the two antennas.
From, apple's idiotic response to the above article:

Apple responds to iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way
We know what you're thinking, and we're thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit [read: use your right hand - R], or buy one of their cases.


Update: To add a little perspective, check out a video from 2008 after the break showing the same issue with the now-ancient iPhone 3G.
Here's an easier solution: Don't buy iphones, then you won't have that problem.

Android phones aren't much better.  True, there are no reports of poor reception when held with the left hand (including my Asus Zenphone).  Android does have a left handed option, ***BUT*** it's buried deep within the software instead of being readily accessible on the phone's settings and options menus.  You have to jump through hoops to find it:
  1. Open "Settings > About Phone".
  2. Scroll down to "Build Number".
  3. Tap SEVEN TIMES quickly to enable developer options.
  4. Go back to Main Settings.
  5. Open Developer Options (not visible by default).
  6. Scroll down, enable "Force RTL layout direction".
Even then, google doesn't respect your decision to use the phone left handed.  Several times after an android update is installed, my phone has been switched back to LTR without my consent, despite android's claim "it won't change your settings".

Left Handers Day 2017, part 2

August 13th is International Left Handers Day.

This is part two of three, about debunking lies and myths, and about helping your students write better.


First, there's the lie and myth (told in both Taiwan and China) that "Chinese characters can only be written right handed." Oh really?

Explain that to The International Left-Handed Chinese Calligraphy Association, based in Singapore. They are writers producing traditional and simplified characters with the left hand, using traditional techniques (e.g. brushes).

Show this page to your Taiwanese students, their Taiwanese teachers and their parents. Good Chinese handwriting IS possible, contrary to the lie.

The International Left Hand Calligraphy Association, based in Singapore


Second, there's the lie and myth told everywhere (not just Taiwan) that "left handed people can't write properly."

Very few teachers are ever trained in teaching left handed handwriting, most are only taught right handed writing techniques. That means left handed kids are taught techniques for the wrong hand, told to "copy what right handers do". They end up with bad handwriting, and then right handed teachers hypocritically and ignorantly blame the left handed kids, saying, "they can't write properly, we should force them to switch" instead of blaiming their own failure to teach properly.

Bad teaching leads to bad handwriting, which leads to poor classwork and poor tests, less enjoyment and more frustration for the student, and inevitably lower grades. The problem starts with the teachers, not the handedness of the child.

So how do we fix this?

First, teach a left handed student to hold a pencil (or pen) properly. The pencil should be cradled between the thumb, index and middle fingers like a triangle, just as right handed students do. Most left handed kids hold pencils in a death grip because of poor training and parents and teachers forcibly trying to take it out of their hands.

Second, stop forcing left handers to use techniques meant for right handers. Allow left handed children to pull the pencil, to draw lines Right To Left (e.g. the horizonal lines in T or E). Shape and accuracy are what matter, not direction, and pulling the pencil (the same way right handers do) will improve shape and accuracy.

Third, angle the paper so the arm is perpendicular to the lines and length of the paper or book. The hand should be below the line being written. This will prevent hook handing (like Barack Obama) and prevent smudging (the side of the hand covered in pencil or ink).

Fourth, ensure the left handed student is at the left side of shared desks or has a left hander to their left. Intentionally or by ignorance, many teachers place or allow left handed students to sit to the right of right handed students. This puts both writing arms in the same place, leading to conflicts, poor writing position, poor posture and poor handwriting.


Below there are several pictures showing proper hand positions which you can print and show to students. In the links, there are several videos demonstrating good technique you can watch and learn or show to your students. There is also a link to free samples of left handed writing practice sheets, or a full paid version for US$5 (which I bought myself) that you can print and copy.


Part 3 will be the last of the series. I will provide links to sites that sell left handed stationery and other items. Forget minor inconveniences like scissors, kids need rulers that number right to left, notebooks with the spine on the right of the cover, etc. These sites also sell other left handed items. I love my kitchen knives with the bevel on the proper side.

I will also include a list of role models for left handed kids to look up to, and a little history of how left handed people have been treated in the past and still are today. I'm not talking about minor inconveniences like pens on the wrong side at banks, I'm talking about rude behaviour (e.g. people refusing to take or give things if you use your left hand), discrimination and far worse.

From Global Times (PRC), October 2015:

Chinese schools should be more accepting of lefties
By Louise Ho Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-15 18:08:03

Local media recently reported that left-handed primary school students in Shanghai are being forced by teachers to write with their right hand. The reports say that one teacher even warned the mother of a first-grade girl that writing with left hand would "cause learning difficulties." Believing the teacher, the misguided parent reprimanded her daughter to tears as a method of "re-educating" the girl.


Links and videos on left handed handwriting:

Youtube videos:

How to hold Pencil and Paper for Left handers by New American Cursive

Writing left handed, by LeftHandersClub

Problems with writing, by LeftHandersClub

From the Handedness Research Institute:

HRI: Teaching Left-Handers to Write by M.K. Holder, Ph.D.

HRI: Teaching Left Handed Writing (PDF)

HRI: What Is Wrong With This Desk? (PDF)

This Reading Mama Blog:

This Reading Mama: Left-Handed Handwriting Pages {7 free!}

Friday, August 4, 2017

Left Handers Day 2017, part 1

August 13th is International Left Handers Day. I encourage ESL and public school teachers in Taiwan to learn about the day for the benefit of their students.


A 2007 study done in Taiwan (published by the National Institute of Health in the US) reported that 59.3% of left handed children had been "successfully changed to right handed". They were not "changed", they were physically, mentally and emotionally abused. The forced switching of hands is no better than "aversion therapy" of LGBTQIA children, which civilized countries now legally consider abuse.

Forced hand switching is an attempt to alter and eliminate a natural behaviour to make children conform to "societal norms". Left handedness is wired into the brain at birth and linked to at least one gene (LRRTM1), so it cannot be changed. More than half of the left handed children in 2007 were forced to use the wrong hand, which means only 5% were reported as left handed. Compare this with Canada, the US, and nearly all Western European countries which report a natural left handedness rate of 11-14%.

If you consider coercing left handed children into use the wrong hand "acceptable", then you shouldn't be teaching them. A recent report said that 30% of Taiwanese children suffer mental disorders due to abuse, disorders which are often the result of physical and mental abuse at home and in schools. There was no data linking left handed children and such abuse-driven problems, but it's not a stretch to believe there is one.

What can you do to help? Pay attention to the handedness of your students - not just the left handed, but the "right handed" kids too. Encourage them to use their left hand, and tell them (and their families and other teachers) that they will perform better at school and in life.

Over the years in Taiwan and South Korea, I have met many left handed kids at many schools who report common problems. The stress caused will hurt their ability to learn, affect test scores, their confidence and ability to speak:

  • verbal and physical coercion (forcibly taking pencils out of the left hand and putting it into the right)
  • "corporal punishment" in school and at home (hit on the hands or face)
  • work marked wrong for being done left handed
  • teachers ignoring and refusing to interact with left handed students
  • passive aggressive behaviour by teachers (e.g. forcing left handed kids to sit to the right of right handed students, blaming the lefty when conflicts occur)
Also pay attention to "right handed" students who may not be. Do any "right handed" students have poor handwriting? Sit in uncomfortable writing positions? Have poor dexterity or limited use of fingers when holding a pencil (i.e. writing from the wrist or arm? Do they use the left hand for many other activities (e.g. tying shoes)? Ask them if they prefer their using left hand (i.e. which arm they throw with, etc.). Encourage them to write with the left hand, and train them if they are willing to learn.

Part 2 talks about how to teach left handed kids.