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Indiana Senate Backs Bill to Require Cursive Lessons

Guest post by Jackie Zubrzycki

The loops and tails of cursive letters this week came a step closer to being resurrected in Indiana schools. A bill authored by Republican state Senator Jean Leising that would require the state's public schools (and private schools that receive vouchers) to teach cursive was unanimously approved by the Senate education committee Thursday and sailed through the Senate yesterday (while other education bills deadlocked). It's now awaiting debate in the House. We reported that the bill was being considered in a story considering the larger debate about teaching cursive handwriting in schools.

Cursive was included in Indiana's standards until last June, when the state adopted the Common Core State Standards and did not specifically add cursive, which the standards do not now include. There was an outcry from the public after news media picked up on the story—Sen. Leising said she heard from constituents immediately, and grew increasingly concerned. "By not teaching cursive, we will establish a new kind illiteracy," she said, citing potential workplace dilemmas that might arise when those schooled in cursive try to communicate with the unschooled.

In an interview in early January, Sen. Leising said she had already heard from about eight state Senators from both parties. "If you end up with that many [supporters] before the bill's even scheduled for a hearing, that means people are discussing this issue in the rest of Indiana." She said she had sent an online poll to 6,000 of her constituents, and 90 percent of the respondents said cursive should be mandatory.

At the time, Ross McMullin, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, said: "To be clear, no one is forcing schools to stop teaching cursive. School corporations may still include cursive in their curriculum offerings if they want to." The department couldn't be reached for a new comment this week.

Researcher Steve Graham, of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, said in an interview for the Education Week story that he believes cursive should be taught, but that the debate clearly goes beyond any academic or cognitive benefits of different styles of penmanship. "I've never seen anything in writing that people feel so passionate about," Graham said. "On the one hand, I like it—we want people to be passionate about writing. On the other, you're mystified about why the passion is on this one, single subskill."

The passion's widespread, it seems—the bill passed 45-5 in the Senate, and the House may take it up as early as next week.

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