Friday, March 1, 2013

Lawmakers: Learning cursive is a must for kids

Handwriting crucial to education, say supporters

Express Staff Writer

Idaho lawmakers approved a resolution Thursday asking the State Board of Education to draft standards requiring Idaho students to learn cursive in public schools. Photo by Kate Wutz

The Senate approved a resolution this morning that urges the State Board of Education to include cursive writing when it develops standards for Idaho curricula next year.

The resolution originated in the House early in February, when Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, argued that cursive handwriting should be included in curricula because it is fading with the advent of technology.

“If we do not teach cursive, the day will come when we will not be able to read cursive handwriting … old documents, inscriptions of any kind,” he said during a hearing on Feb. 12. “That will happen.”

Schools are not required by national or state standards to teach cursive currently, though Blaine County School District spokeswoman Heather Crocker said in an interview that all Blaine County students learn cursive in third grade.

Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexberg, said during the hearing that he knew that students were not learning proper handwriting techniques because he’s seen it for himself. He said he hired 26 high school seniors to help him with a potato harvest last fall, having them fill out W4 forms.

“A third of them, maybe more, I had to call their mother and find out how to spell their name,” he said. “They couldn’t write. Many of them didn’t write at all, they printed, and I couldn’t read the printing.”

Raybould urged passage of the bill, saying that writing is “a basic part of education.” The bill states that proper handwriting development can help with brain development and visual recognition, that cursive helps develop fine motor skills and that lack of ability to read cursive will “weaken society’s relationship to its past.”

The resolution passed the house on a 68-2 vote, despite arguments from some legislators who may have been swayed by arguments that the government should not be involved in setting curricula for schools.

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he supported the bill only because Bateman said it was backed by Superintendent Tom Luna. But he said he worried about the precedent.

“I feel that we need to be very careful about turning curriculum issues into a matter of legislative debate,” he said.

But the measure saw no such debate in the Senate on Thursday morning, when Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, gave a brief presentation of the bill that mainly centered on notes from Bateman that Nonini didn’t read.

Nonini said he had seven pages of handwritten notes from Bateman that put forth the arguments for the bill.

“I will not start through that,” he said with a laugh, “But I wanted to let the body know that there are seven pages of handwritten cursive notes.”

Nonini said he’s been inspired by the legislation to work on his own handwriting, which he called “a good exercise.” Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said that he, too, has continued to work on his handwriting as an adult because he feels good handwriting is a valuable skill.

“It’s one of those things that I have tried to improve,” he said. “I wasn’t good at it, and my parents asked me to work at it, and I have continued to work at it over the years.”

The resolution is now on the books, and the State Board of Education will include cursive in statewide student standards when they are developed later this year.

Kate Wutz:

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