Mandatory cursive bill advances, but faces hurdles ahead

An Indiana Senate committee crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s Wednesday in an effort to make cursive writing mandatory in elementary school curriculum.

Senate Bill 73, making cursive mandatory in schools, passed out of the Education and Career Development committee with a 6-4 vote.

Author, Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, was not shocked by those opposed.

“This is a tough committee to get it passed out of, and so I am pleased, obviously, that the vote was 6-4,” Leising said. “I just have to do my work now to get it through on the floor of the Senate.”

Leising said getting SB 73 to pass through the Senate has not been a problem in previous years, but when it heads to the House, the bill dies.

“The biggest challenge will likely be Rep. Behning and the House because he, in the past, refused to give it a hearing,” said Leising.

Leising said she has received multiple emails, texts, and Facebook posts in support of teaching third- and fourth-graders cursive writing.

“Based from all of the surveying and polling that I have done within my counties, clearly, as much as 90 percent of the people think that it ought to be taught,” said Leising. “I believe that is still true.”

Katie Smith, a principal at Northwood Elementary in Franklin, said she feels positively about cursive writing but has a concern.

“Cursive writing is important for brain development,” said Smith. “I wish we had more time to delegate to cursive, but it is already very difficult to get everything in a school day.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he doesn’t have a strong opinion on the bill, when asked after releasing the House GOP agenda last week.

“My sister actually wrote her master’s thesis in education on the correlation between brain connections and cursive writing and how important it is,” said Bosma. “But I also understand that it’s a local issue. My preference is to leave it to locals.”

Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, also wants to leave curriculum decisions regarding cursive at a local level.

“We talk about allowing schools to have local control and then mandate that they teach cursive writing, so they already have the ability to teach cursive writing if they want. So, why mandate that they do it?” Yoder said. “I think that our schools can make the decision for themselves whether it’s necessary or not to teach cursive writing.”

While Speaker Bosma’s sister and Smith may believe cursive writing is good for brain development, Yoder thinks that’s wrong.

“No, I do not. I believe that to be a joke,” said Yoder. “That would suggest that individuals in the past who did not learn cursive writing have less cognitive abilities than those who did. That’s a stretch.”

One of the advocates, who gave testimonies last week, stressed the importance of having the ability to read historical documents. Yoder also disagrees with that point.

“Frankly, this whole thing about historical documents, I can hand anybody a copy of the Declarations of Independence or any of those copies and they could not read it because the cursive writing was so scrawled out and so hard to read,” said Yoder. “You can’t read signatures today anyway, so it’s all a big cover. It’s much to do about nothing. We have much more serious things to tackle than cursive writing.”

The bill will be brought to the full Senate as early as Jan. 19.

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