House committee endorses cursive bill

The House Education Committee Thursday unanimously backed a bill aimed at creating a cursive handwriting renaissance in Idaho.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, unveiled the bill last month, saying teaching cursive will increase brain activity and preserve elegant penmanship in an age when text messages and tweets are replacing handwritten letters.

Rep. Linden Bateman

Bateman’s concurrent resolution asks the Idaho State Board of Education to create rules requiring that cursive be taught in elementary school. The legislation next moves to the House floor for consideration.

Peter Wollheim, professor emeritus of communications at Boise State University, was one of three communications and language experts who testified in favor of the bill. Wollheim cited numerous studies that demonstrate benefits of cursive writing on the development of adolescent brains. He said the practice helps students unite the left and right sides of their brain.

“It seems that when you have children who train in cursive writing … they have early and better verbal fluency and written fluency,” Wollheim said.

Bateman, a longtime social studies and government teacher at Skyline and Bonneville high schools in Idaho Falls, said he has been overwhelmed by support since introducing the bill.

“I have gotten mail from all over the United States on this,” Bateman said. “Some of the most beautiful cursive handwritten letters I have ever seen have come from all over the country.”

Still, some question whether requiring cursive goes too far. Tyler Bird, a high school student in Lake Pend Oreille School District 84, said students should probably be introduced to cursive, but then allowed to use whatever method works best for them.

“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 said.

Bateman also acknowledged some resistance. He told lawmakers Thursday that a handful of younger teachers have resisted his effort to include cursive in common core standards.

Rep. Reed DeMordaunt

House Education Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, threw his support behind the bill just before calling for the vote. DeMordaunt said his third-grade son, who has a learning disability, began learning cursive this year. Learning cursive helped DeMordaunt’s son better express his thoughts and ideas.

“It made a huge difference in his life,” DeMordaunt said. “I don’t know that I would have been a believer otherwise.”

Melissa McGrath, spokeswoman for the State Department of Education, said department officials would support the cursive bill and stage public meeting to glean implementation suggestions from parents and teachers if the Legislature approves the initiative.

In order for the bill to be adopted, it would need to clear the full House and begin the process again in the Senate before reaching the desk of Gov. Butch Otter.


Clark Corbin

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