Opinion: Marty Carlson – House should favor cursive writing bill

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House should favor cursive writing bill

Last week the Louisiana Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 275 which would require that cursive writing be taught in the state’s public schools. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklin.

The bill now moves to review by House members and hopefully, the House members will take the same unanimous action to continue teaching this important skill in our schools.
In our technological age where the keyboard or touch screen look to replace handwritten communication, there’s good reason to continue to teach the skill of cursive writing.

Research shows that despite the technological emphasis in schools, handwriting remains the primary communication tool in the classroom. Moreover, research has found that children who don’t master the skill of writing often decide they can’t write – and consequently do less writing than their contemporaries.

Arguments in favor of continuing to teach this skill in our classrooms include that this style of writing is faster and more efficient than printed handwriting and that it teaches fine motor skills. And a New York Times piece quoted Jimmy Bryant, University of Central Arkansas, “Cursive writing is a long-held cultural tradition in this country and should continue to be taught; not just for the sake of tradition, but also to preserve the history of our nation.”

In earlier hearings before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee, Mizell explained her reasoning for the bill saying, “To deprive our students of not knowing how to write cursive, no less read cursive, is pretty audacious on our part.” She also noted that she’s heard of the problems that young folks experience in not knowing what a signature means – and cannot write one.

Mizell makes an important point about knowing how to write cursive as well as read it. As has often been observed by proponents of keeping cursive or script instruction in our schools, students who can’t read this communication form cannot read the original form of our historic national and state documents. The Constitution of the United States, for example, is written in flowing script that would be unintelligible to those who cannot read it.

Many educators, on the other hand, would likely argue that today’s school schedules make it hard to work in cursive handwriting instruction and practice. There’s also the issue of less emphasis on the skill of writing and more on simply writing efficiently in our school curriculum.

But finding that time and teaching the skill should be a curricular requirement in Louisiana’s public elementary schools. Mizell’s concern for young people who don’t know what a signature means is a worry that we should all share. In my day job as a legal secretary, I can attest to the necessity of being able to sign documents like wills, contracts, and similar legal papers.

It would be fair to suggest that if we aren’t teaching the art of writing cursive in our schools, then perhaps we advocate that signing “X” is an appropriate “signature” for the future.

Fortunately, Louisiana state senators apparently see the value to our students of foregoing the “X” factor in favor of continuing to teach this skill in our schools, as have legislatures in several other states.

No doubt the Louisiana House will see the issue the same way.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com