Cursive writing bill deserves passage

(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

Those of a certain age can still see, in the classrooms of their minds, those oh-so-exact, even ornate, examples of proper handwriting displayed across the tops of chalkboards.

It’s called cursive now, but mostly then it was just called writing, as opposed to hand printing. Both writing and printing were taught and practiced painstakingly, over and over, until the pupil reached at least an approximation of that irritating best-student-in-class’ letter-perfect work.

That ancient art of legible handwriting — letters joined together in a continuous chain of swirls and strokes — is no longer a required part of the Hoosier classroom. Since 2011, it has been optional, while keyboarding is required. Keyboarding, of course, should be required in an age of mobile devices and computers, but so again should cursive.

State Sen. Jean Leising, of Oldenburg, has succeeded in getting a bill passed in the Indiana Senate that would require “each school corporation and accredited nonpublic elementary school to include cursive writing,” as CNHI Statehouse reporter Maureen Hayden told you in the Feb. 27 Tribune-Star.

That bill passed the full Senate 39-11 (unfortunately with local state senators Jon Ford of Terre Haute and Eric Bassler of Washington voting against it. Why, gentlemen?) And now the bill goes on the House, where, as Hayden reported, Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), the chair of the House Education Committee, may try to block the measure from being heard. He has done so before; this is Leising’s fourth try.

The idea deserves a fair hearing in the House — but then again, that’s an idealistic view of matters at the Statehouse that seem to be influenced far more by special interests and lobbyists’ money than by common sense for what’s best for Indiana’s citizens.

The desire to return to cursive is not just a “Little House on the Prairie” wish by fossilized minds for a time that was simpler. Emerging are several reasons to believe — who knew? — that learning cursive is educational.

Just days old is a commentary titled “Ten reasons people still need cursive” on the website of the Federalist, a pretty conservative looking operation.

Among its arguments is this, presented by William Klemm, Ph.D., senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University: “Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity,” he writes in the magazine Psychology Today. “School systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge.”

Cursive, the Federalist piece suggests, exercises the brain, helps people learn to write (as in compose thoughts), lends cognitive development, can help those with special needs, inspires creativity, keeps older brains sharper (such as those who recall the aforementioned chalkboard displays of handwriting), expresses uniqueness — and can be a thing of beauty forever.

It’s also quite practical. Cursive — or at least a close form of it — is necessary for vehicle purchases, mortgage agreements, voting documents, loan contracts and much more. A printed name is not a signature.

And pupils made to study cursive might even learn — oh, it’s so hopelessly old school — of the satisfaction of sending someone a hand-written letter or thank-you note, abandoning even for a few minutes, the easy and impersonal nature of a Facebook post, email or text.

The bill needs to pass the House, as it did the Senate, and then it deserves to get the governor’s signature.

In cursive, of course.

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