Lawmaker wants to protect cursive handwriting

In the face of expanding technology, one Idaho lawmaker is trying to prevent cursive handwriting from going the way of the pay phone, cassette tape and telegram.

On Tuesday members of the House Education Committee voted to introduce a bill carried by Rep. Linden Bateman, R- Idaho Falls, that is designed to protect cursive handwriting in public schools.

Rep. Linden Bateman

Bateman’s concurrent resolution asks members of the Idaho State Board of Education to create rules requiring cursive be taught in elementary schools. Cursive is now an option for schools, not a required core standard Bateman said.

While the practice of cursive handwriting is declining, not everyone believes a new law is necessary.

Tyson Bird, a high school student in Lake Pend Oreille School District 84, said a mandate would be going to far.

“Technology changes from day to day, and society adapts to that change,” Bird wrote in an email to Idaho Education News. “There isn’t a law mandating that every citizen use a landline phone, yet landline phones aren’t completely obsolete even as cell phone use grows and phone technology becomes more advanced.”

Bird says he knows cursive but only uses it occasionally – for thank you cards, personal letters and the like. More often than not, Bird types his messages, papers and assignments or writes in standard print handwriting.

Bateman, who served five terms in the Legislature between 1977 and 1986 before returning to politics in 2010, is a longtime educator and student teacher supervisor.

In preparation for drafting the bill, Bateman visited five elementary schools to meet with teachers and students about writing. Bateman’s main concern is that if cursive is not taught people will be unable to read it in the future. He frets old family letters will be lost and people will not be able to read the original copy of the Declaration of Independence of Constitution if cursive dies off.

“Even though we have computers and cell phones and other whirligigs, we’re still going to write,” Bateman said. “It’s just part of our being.”

For his part, Bird isn’t convinced cursive writing has received a death sentence from computers and text messages.

“People should be introduced to cursive, just as they are introduced to graphing mathematical functions by hand — as opposed to a graphing calculator,” Bird said. “However, I don’t think cursive should become mandatory and students should still be allowed to use the method that works best for their individual situation.”




Clark Corbin

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