A House resolution urging that cursive writing be taught in Idaho schools that passed in the House of Representatives was approved Monday by a Senate committee.
Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, presented House Concurrent Resolution 3 to the Senate Education Committee. Bateman, a retired educator, is a fan of cursive writing, telling the committee that “we had a cursive standard up until 2011,” but also noted that the newly adopted Common Core curriculum standards no longer include a cursive component.
States can add cursive writing to the curriculum if they so choose and Bateman’s measure asks the Idaho Board of Education to do so.
“It’s actually an important part of a child’s mental development,” Bateman told IdahoReporter.com, noting that “it develops their motor skills in ways that looking at a computer screen does not.”
When Bateman first introduced the legislation in the House Education Committee back in January, the move touched off nationwide reaction. “We heard about Mr. Bateman’s proposal, and we’re delighted,” noted Sheila Lowe, president of the nonprofit American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, and leader of the nationwide Campaign for Cursive movement. She told IdahoReporter.com that while she was delighted with Bateman’s efforts, she nonetheless lamented that at least 40 other states no longer mandate the teaching of cursive.
“Alabama seems to be doing a good job with this,” Lowe said, “but even here in my home state of California where cursive is supposed to be required, the statute is very weak and it’s left up to individual classroom teachers as to whether or not it gets taught.”
She says that recent research at the University of Washington reveals that areas of the brain having to do with learning, language and working memory “light up” during cursive writing in ways that they do not with keyboarding or printed writing. “We do so much with keyboarding these days, but we can’t afford to lose the development that a child sustains with cursive writing,” she said.
Bateman agrees on the importance of cursive to a child’s development, but he also believes a nation can lose its own history without teaching cursive. “I saw this happen in Germany when I lived there back in the ‘60s,” he said to IdahoReporter.com. “We could arrive at the point where Americans can’t read the original documents of the Constitution.”
Support for Bateman’s agenda has evolved over the past few weeks. In fact, a change of position has been detected at the Idaho Department of Education.
“We have great respect for Rep. Bateman and his current effort,” Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Education told IdahoReporter.com back in January. However, McGrath added that “we believe the higher academic standards Idaho recently adopted in writing still allow Idaho school districts to teach cursive, but also allow Idaho school districts to determine how to teach it.”
Monday, however, Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he received word that the state education department “fully supports” the cursive writing bill. “I had a very good discussion about this with the superintendent (Tom Luna) myself,” Bateman added. “He supports the measure.”