Senate committee passes cursive writing requirement, again

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Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has not given up.

For the third straight year she has convinced the Indiana Senate Education Committee to pass a bill that requires schools to teach cursive writing.

“Mr. Chairman and members of the committee I so appreciate you taking the time to hear cursive writing one more time,” said Leising on Wednesday as she gave “a refresher” on the cursive bill she has presented twice before.

“This has a lot to do with brain development,” Leising said, “We shouldn’t automatically take for granted that our brain reads from left to right. It is actually a training our brain goes through connecting letters.”

In 2010, the State Board of Education made cursive writing optional for school curriculums. It was part of the board’s adoption of Common Core, a set of national standards that are now on hold in Indiana.

“Cursive writing got demoted because of the Common Core standards,” said Leising, “The Common Core did not include, specifically, any references to cursive writing and there was a shift toward keyboarding.”

Leising said she is not opposed to keyboarding. But she and “over 90 percent” of Hoosiers still support cursive writing being taught in school.

A group of Indiana University students wrote to Leising to show support for Senate Bill 113. Their names were signed on the back. But not everyone thought the lobbying technique worked.

“I think (the letter) reaches out to us to tell how ineffective teaching cursive writing is in schools, because I can’t read over half the names of all those kids who had cursive writing all the way through school,” said Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury. “I would much prefer to be able to read a printed name that I could actually read who it is.”

Leising argued legibility should not be the focus of the debate.

“It’s still an identifiable mark”, said Leising. “It is their mark, their signature.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.


  • Thank you Leising
    I support the bill. Cursive writing is beautiful and builds dexterity. It should be kept in the curriculum.
  • Cursive is Outdated
    I don't understand what point "Company Owner" is trying to make. What employee would fill out a job application in cursive? Cursive is going the way of the do do bird. Spending weeks in school to learn cursive is a waste of time given that most people don't write using cursive anymore. I don't buy that learning to write cursive is necessary to be able to read cursive. Even then, it's rare that skill would be required.
  • Good thing.....
    I guess it's a good thing my grandma used to write me 4 page letters in cursive every other week and the nuns taught me how to read them. :-)
  • I can Bob
    What I can already tell is that you are resistant to a concept that you particularly do not enjoy, i.e., your bosses way. What I cannot tell from your neatly printed handwriting is what your comprehension level is for my handwriting. See, education has barriers, one of which being affluence. If all public school kids of lower affluence are taught printing and typing, then what happens when they need to read my handwriting, in cursive. They are essentially illiterate. I have impeccable handwriting, and if a staff member cannot read it, they are at a disadvantage and are not as valuable (professionally that is, not personally), to me or my company. That leads to less responsibility, less advancement, less pay. You see Bob, the more tools one has, the more possibilities they have, over their peers, for advancement; and is that not the ultimate concept of education? Again, you can print, but a well rounded person with an extra tool in their tool belt can print and write; I prefer more tools, not less.
  • @ a company owner
    Can you not gain the same information from my neatly printed handwriting v. my unreadable cursive.
    • A company owner
      As a company owner who employees 60+ maintenance techs and 20+ office staffers, I applaud the teaching of this technique, even as I type on my laptop. Applicants for my company must fill their application out in pen, and of course also take certain technology proficiency tests based on what position they are applying for. I have the pen requirement because if they cannot write and/or spell in a coherent manner, I gain a wealth of information about their skillsets and capabilities. It is not the whole story, but it provides a large picture of it. If our staff cannot read our techs' handwritten notes on their service orders, then what good are those notes? If our staff cannot fill out a handwritten form in pen (yes, that still happens) then what else can they not do? It is a tool in the tool belt of an educated person, as is typing and other skill sets. It should continue not as part of the past to "read a letter from grandma" but as part of the future to develop a well rounded and fully capable individual ready for all aspects of work/life.
    • Agreed
    • We live in the future
      Cursive is dying. Language and writing evolves. This isn't something new. We don't teach when to use long S any more (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_s).
    • Wow
      Our state is slipping further and further behind the rest of the nation in educational attainment, income, health, etc, but all our worthless legislature is worried about is cursive, gays, abortion, and protecting factory farms.
      • Teach but don't require
        I'm probably from the last generation that had to turn in handwritten homework. I had terrible penmanship an my teachers by and large hated it. I would generally get my grade knocked down at least a 1/2 point for my writing. It is fine to teach it but I hope they won't require students to use it--which begs the point why even teach it--to read a letter from grandma?
      • Handwriting matters — does cursive matter?
        Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.) Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. (In fact, now there's even an iPad app to teach how: named "Read Cursive," of course — http://appstore.com/readcursive .) So why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, including some handwriting style that's actually typical of effective handwriters? Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority — 55 percent — wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why revere it? Why exalt it, let alone mandate it? In each of Senator Leising's two previous attempts to mandate cursive handwriting (2012 and 2013) she has publicly made erroneous statements in order to gain support. These statements were made to the Indiana media and, in at least one instance, were made under oath to her fellow legislators during her testimony in defense of her cursive bill. Details: /1/ In 2012, Leising's erroneous claim to her fellow legislators was that cursive was supported by an Indiana University research study ("Neural Correlates of Handwriting" by Dr. Karin Harman-James). The senator had handed out this study to her fellow legislators as she introduced the bill — after adding to the study a front-page statement (or "abstract"), written by her and replacing the study's original abstract. Senator Leising's added material, and her description of the study as she introduced the bill, asserted that the study had compared printing with cursive and that it had found advantages for cursive. The fact, however, is that the study had not even involved cursive. When legislators and other recipients of her claims went beyond the first page, then looked up the study themselves, they quickly found that the study had been a comparison of printing with keyboarding (and that printing had come out ahead). /2/ In 2013, her second attempt, Leising stated in the legislature (in a dramatic assertion that was picked up by her state's media) that research done by "the SAT people" (her phrase) had shown that SAT examinees who used cursive on the test's essay section got 15% higher scores. Again, a check of sources (in this case, inquiries to the SAT/College Board administrators, made by me and apparently by other persons) swiftly revealed that Leising's claim diverged from the facts. The score gap between print-using and cursive-using examinees, it turned out, was not 15% or anywhere near that —but was a mere one-fifth of a point (0.2 points) and was on the essay portion alone: so small a difference that it is, for instance, less than the score difference between male and female students taking the same exam. (The only "15%" anywhere in the research was the percentage of students who used cursive rather than in some other form of handwriting.) It remains to be asked why she has allowed her two previous efforts to rely on misquotation and misrepresentation to her fellow legislators and to the other citizens of Indiana. Let us focus on this year. What has she claimed _this_ time? /a/ While she still talks about "research," she has stopped providing any traceable source. Perhaps she is finding it easier to make statements without a traceable source than to use identifiable sources (whose misrepresentation, too, can be identified). /b/ She has now started claiming that cursive writing is important because (she tells her audiences) joining letters is what causes us to read from left to right. It would hurt her case — perhaps it would hurt her feelings — if her audiences recollected that the left-to-right direction of our alphabet existed for centuries (at least) before handwriting began to join. Certainly, children are taught to read (and often become very good at it) years before they are taught to join letters: even texting, which is definitely not cursive and whose practitioners are often life-long print-writers, goes as thoroughly left-to-right as any other form of the written language. /c/ Further, Senator Leising has now stated that she doesn't care whether children (or, presumably, other people) can write their own names decipherably, as long as they are doing it in cursive. She points out, correctly, that a signature need not be legible to be legally valid: the point of a signature, as she says, is that it is "an identifiable mark." This fact, and her recognition of it, destroys one of her own earlier arguments for cursive: the argument which she used throughout 2012 and 2013. At that time, she was claiming that an important reason for cursive was to make signatures legally valid. (That is a common supposition about cursive, because it is a supposition that is taught as fact by many of the people who teach cursive. However, as Senator Leising has now admitted, what legally matters is not the form of the handwriting used — cursive, printed, or one of the many hybrids, good or bad — but whether the signature is "an identifiable mark." (Printed writing — or the print/cursive hybrid that so many good writers form, and that some are taught from the beginning — is as identifiable a "mark" as anything festooned with loops and ceaseless joining. Examiners of questioned documents, for instance, inform me that the most identifiable and individual signatures are the plainest — including those that are printed, or partly printed, in form.) All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it. Senator Leising is, at any rate, persistent. When one misstatement will not serve her purpose, she easily drops it and finds — or creates — another. Let us assume, for the moment, that her repeated misstatements, and her scooting from one to another, may be entirely acceptable to the legislature of Indiana and to the citizenry whom they represent. Even so, in this third year of Leising's efforts her case remains singularly devoir of evidence. Her assertions on research have changed from the documentably non-factual (in 2012 and 2014) to the undocumented and presumably undocumentable. Her assertions on signatures have changed from endorsing a popular error (the belief that signatures must require cursive) to admitting that a signature is an "identifiable mark" (yet deciding, somehow, that her case is supported nonetheless. Good handwriting is a rare thing. In cursive, good handwriting — or even reasonably legible, reasonably fluent handwriting — is rarer than it is in any of the other forms of handwriting which in use today. The rarity of good handwriting, in cursive, is no argument in favor of requiring schoolchildren (or anyone else) to write that way. Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring. SOURCES: Handwriting research on speed and legibility: /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May - June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September - October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf — the cursive/printing question is #2. “Neural Correlates of Handwriting" by Dr. Karin Harman-James of Indiana University: https://www.hw21summit.com/research-harman-james College Board research breakdown of SAT scores (the cursive/printing information is on page 5) http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/about/news_info/cbsenior/yr2006/cbs-2006_release.pdf Background on our handwriting, past and present: 3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament: A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE — http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING — http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY (shows how fine motor skills are developed in handwriting WITHOUT cursive) — http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0 [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest] Yours for better letters, Kate Gladstone Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the World Handwriting Contest http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

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