Idaho Lawmaker Wants to Prepare Students for the Nineteenth Century by Mandating Cursive Writing

Linden Bateman (Source: State of Idaho)

Linden Bateman (Source: State of Idaho)

Good handwriting is something to be admired, but is it really the subject on which to focus scarce educational resources? For Idaho State Rep. Linden Bateman, it is the big educational issue of the day.

Bateman has his supporters, and other states such as California have already initiated steps to continue the teaching of cursive. Fortunately, they are in the minority. Developing skills to adapt to a technological society make a lot more sense than spending precious school time practicing how to make loops with a pencil. Mandatory typing classes would do far more to prepare students to operate in a technological society than linking letters together in handwriting. Bateman has a different idea though, as covered by the Spokesman-Review:

“What will that do to historical research?” he asked. “Family research? Genealogy? Our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence — kids will not be able to read those documents in the original. It disconnects kids from their past — weakens the connection.”

To a degree, Bateman has a point. Yet any student who is interested in historical research will not have too much difficulty learning to read cursive. It is going to be far easier than for the historian who wants to study the Roman Empire and must learn Latin or hieroglyphics for ancient Egypt.

For Bateman, cursive must be part of the core of education.

“We need to have balance in our system,” Bateman declared. “We just can’t go with technology in every corner of our lives. … We’ve got to retain beauty in our lives.” Plus, he said there’s lots of scientific research, much of it very recent, showing big benefits for children of cursive writing. “It’s good for kids’ brains,” Bateman said. “Cursive handwriting involves more areas of the brain than when you touch keyboards.” It also develops’ kids’ fine motor skills, he said, along with retention, composition and other skills.

Bateman went onto emphasize the artistry and grace of good penmanship.

It does all that. Carefully crafted cursive is beautiful, but outside of making a signature, what practicality does it have in modern society? There is only so much time available for teaching. This isn’t the same as claiming that calculators make arithmetic unnecessary because people need to use math everyday when a calculator is not available. The place for cursive is as an elective, not mandatory for second, third or fourth graders. They are going to lose that skill as they progress through school anyway. Teachers don’t want cursive reports turned in as homework assignments anymore. After graduation, how much does a person use cursive in a day — outside of a signature?

Sometimes, as much as it comforting to hold to the past, it is important to let some things go. This subject makes far more sense as an elective. It isn’t going to prepare students for jobs in the twenty-first century. Latin was once thought to be mandatory for those who were going to advance in education. Its absence hasn’t sent the country into decline, and neither will the end of cursive.

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