Printed on: February 08, 2013

Cursive bill aims to write a wrong

By Christina Lords
clords@postregister.com

BOISE -- Dear Mr. Bateman,

Your article was in our Lewiston Tribune today.

I have been hoping someone would do something about cursive handwriting. My grandkids can't read cursive, and it is so sad. I don't print well. Never did.

I can't even send a birthday card they can read. I hope it gets fixed soon.

Thank you for your efforts.

Shirley Halleen, Lewiston

That grandmother's letter was one of many received by Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, after he introduced a resolution that would encourage the Idaho State Board of Education to include cursive writing standards for students statewide.

"I have gotten mail from all over the United States on this issue," he told members of the House Education Committee during a public hearing on the measure Thursday. "Some of the most beautiful personal handwritten letters I've ever seen have come in from across the country."

Committee members were unanimous in their approval, enabling the measure to be brought before the full House.

Boise State University professor Peter Wollheim testified Thursday that teaching cursive to young students allows the mind to develop cognitive thinking skills, especially those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

"It seems to me the argument is one for tradition," he said. "Not tradition for its own sake, not in a sentimental way, but in a sense of speaking to a kind of sense of social stability. (It is) conservatism in its truest sense."

Committee chairman Reed DeMordaunt said his third-grade son, who has a learning disability, just started cursive writing in school.

"That made a huge difference in his life to be able to express his thoughts and ideas," DeMordaunt said. "I don't know that I would have been a believer otherwise,"

Should the state board include Bateman's proposal in its Common Core standards, districts would be required to follow the recommendation.

Bateman said it was not his intent to add more to the plates of already overburdened teachers.

He said about 90 percent of the feedback -- from constituents and teachers -- has been positive. The remaining 10 percent are worried that the cursive measure would add yet another demand on teachers' time throughout the school day.

One solution to help teachers fit more cursive instruction into their lesson plans would be postponing keyboarding curriculum until third grade instead of second, Bateman said.

Kathleen Wright, national handwriting public manager for Ohio-based Zaner-Bloser, said cursive writing is intrinsically connected to a student's continued success in the areas of spelling, grammatical composition and reading speed.

Zaner-Bloser is a publisher of handwriting, reading, spelling and vocabulary programs for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

"Handwriting is truly brain writing," she said. "It's how we learn."

Reporter Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762. Comment on this story at Post Talk at www.postregister.com/posttalk.