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Cursive writing bill linked to for-profit company

Legislation seems to be popping up around the country that would mandate cursive writing instruction in elementary schools. Indiana, Idaho, and South Carolina all have bills moving through their legislatures that call for the instruction of cursive, and some folks are beginning to question why.

As reported in March, the House Education Committee is considering HB 146, Back to Basics, which would mandate mastery of cursive writing by fifth grade and memorization of multiplication tables. House members supported the bill, introduced by Reps. Hurley, Warren and Shepherd, with few reservations. The Senate will take up the bill on Wednesday.

When Rep. Hurley introduced the bill, her stated justification to mandate cursive writing instruction included the claim  that PET scans show that your whole brain works when you’re doing cursive, but that “only half” of your brain works when you are doing manuscript, and that your brain “doesn’t work” when you are keyboarding.

A handwriting instructor, Kate Gladstone, became curious as to what kind of research supported Rep. Hurley’s claim. Upon inquiring with Hurley’s office, legislative assistant Deborah Holder sent Gladstone this article, MJ12 Berninger_NAESP Article_May2012 – which, in fact, does not support Hurley’s claims and even notes possible benefits to keyboard instruction in early grades.

Hurley mentioned during her introduction of the bill that ALEC supplied her with background information with regard to cursive writing instruction. Pressing further, Gladstone asked Hurley’s office how she obtained research relevant to the bill, and Holder explained that they had received a lot of information from a “source in South Carolina.”

Upon further inquiry, that source turned out to be a sales rep from Zaner-Bloser, a for-profit company that promotes cursive writing and sells handwriting instructional materials. Incidentally, the South Carolina legislature is considering an identical bill to mandate cursive writing instruction, no doubt after having received the same research pushed to them by the Zaner-Bloser sales rep.

So are lawmakers really worried that their grandchildren will be able to read the constitution, or are they actually worried about Zaner-Bloser’s bottom line?

19 Comments

  1. Frances Jenkins

    April 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

    This is another cheap shot of reporting information. Students should be able to write cursive and know how to multiply. It does not matter from whom the idea came. Is this another low blow from Blueprint? Demonize the message or the person bringing the message. I expected more from you. You have taken the low road. SAD !!!!We need to talk about the sources of information for Progressive Pulse, ProgressNC, Blueprint/Bluepoint, ProgressNC, and Governor Protozman.

  2. Charlie Patin

    April 24, 2013 at 9:30 am

    And you know all this how, Frances? Or is this just your “common sense” talking? I have no idea who is right in this but I’ll bet there was something going on between Rep. Hurley and Zaner-Bloser. If not, why did she lie when she first proposed the bill then changed her reasons when that lie was uncovered. I’m always glad when this stuff is dug up. No matter which party is dirty. This stuff goes on constantly and is seldom reported. Way to go Lindsay!

  3. Steve Harrison

    April 24, 2013 at 9:51 am

    “It does not matter from whom the idea came.”

    “We need to talk about the sources of information for blah blah blah”

    That twitch in your left eyelid is caused by cognitive dissonance. I’m…pretty sure there’s a pill for that, but I don’t want to drop any brand names in case there’s a cheap generic out there.

  4. NCCaniac42

    April 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I WAS fine with this bill BUT it seems the NCGA GOP can’t do anything that seems to be COMMON SENSE – there always seems to be a Profit Motive and ALEC involvement. Cursive and handwriting and multiplication tables should be a staple – worked fine for my generation (only 50 years old) should work fine for my nieces and nephews and their children too.

    While we are at it, time to do research into the company or companies that will profit from the Background Checks and Drug Testing for Benefits. In Florida, it was the drug testing company owned by Gov. Rick Scott’s wife. Our NCGA needs to be aware of how much that bill actually COST the state of FL. Much more than was saved.

    Let’s not forget that this same crew in Raleigh wants to NOW end limits from lobbyists because only Democrats are greedy and take money.. Republicans are much more trustworthy and honest. (Sarcasm) Time to start watching their actions just not listening to their 30 secs ad spots.

  5. Doug

    April 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Who cares if it is linked to a for profit company or a corrupt government program? The kids need skills like this, I hope it gets my kids in time as they only print. I do know they have memorized multiplication so that was still being taught, at least in some schools.

  6. gregflynn

    April 24, 2013 at 10:34 am

    The most beautiful handwriting in the world can’t disguise ignorance, but laid down in sepia might expose the false dilemmas of black-or-white logic.

  7. Doug

    April 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Well I guess you are a poet but don’t know it.

  8. hunter

    April 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Just use “french script” instead of calibri

  9. Pete

    April 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Whatever self-interested advocates may be promoting for their own interests, there are and remain real values in learning to write in cursive, ranging from brain development (yes, there IS some good non-tainted research on this) to being able to read historic documents as well as personal notes, and even to write some of the most intimate letters such as meaningful thanks and condolences. Keyboarding is also important but not a substitute. As a teacher myself it is discouraging to see the number of young people who cannot any longer express themselves with any fluidity in this way. I support many of the Progressive Pulse’s positions, but this is an issue I would hope many of us could agree on rather than demonize it just because some of its legislative sponsors are people with whom I disagree on many other issues.

  10. Kate Gladstone

    April 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Pete — You say you know of “good, non-tainted research” supporting cursive handwriting. Can you please send it to me at handwritingrepair@gmail.com — or perhaps post its link[s] somewhere?

    Here’s why I ask —

    Without exception so far, when a supporter of cursive has claimed to have research showing advantages for cursive over any of the other handwriting styles, one or more of the following things have happened when I’ve asked to see that research:

    /1/ The request isn’t answered

    OR

    /2/ The request is answered with something that doesn’t say what the cursive supporter claimed it would say. (For example, one of the papers most commonly offered as “cursive research” doesn’t even deal with cursive — it’s a comparison of print-writing with keyboarding, and the subjects were kindergarteners. Yet this paper was presented as “research proof of cursive” to legislators in Indiana by the sponsor of a cursive bill in that state in early 2012. When the bill soon thereafter dropped from 95% support to 0% and was shelved, the same legislator revived her bill a year later with different material to misquote, and it’s before their full Senate now: details on request by e-mail.)

    OR

    /3/ What was sent turned out to be a non-research article that cited research, but that misquoted what was cited: turning studies I had read (which hadn’t supported cursive over the other styles of handwriting) into support for cursive. (In these instances, the supporter of cursive wasn’t quoting incorrectly, but was accepting a secondary source misquoting the primary source. When I check, most of the cursive supporters in thst category said they didn’t know that they’d done so … a number of them said they preferred not to know, and not to care: it shouldn’t matter whether the research even existed at all, as long as they felt it was worth citing whether it existed or not. Some said that they regarded cursive handwriting as so important to humanity that it needed to be promoted by all means necessary, without other considerations being allowed to interfere.)

    So please, Pete: if any of the “good, untainted research” supports cursive, I want to know. I’ve seen research that supports handwriting over keyboarding, but I haven’t seen any that supports cursive over the other forms of handwriting.

    Even research on the speed/legibility habits of highly effective handwriters does not support cursive over other ways of writing by hand: citations on request.

  11. Wayne Spencer

    April 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Cursive writing has fast become a quaint art form that those with an interest in can pursue. But, maybe it shouldn’t be a required course. In today’s society it is probably more important to be able to use a keyboard. It reminds me of my son coming home after school asking if he could use my old slide rule. Something I had not used in a few years at the time. He needed it because his math teacher was teaching the use of a slide rule. When asked him why, his answer was that the teacher said that sometime you might not have access to a calculator. He was also be taught to use a logarithmic table. My point is, that some things are just going to die.

  12. Bill Genereux

    April 25, 2013 at 7:20 am

    What amuses me about this discussion is that the very people pushing for mandatory cursive writing curricula are often the same folks who are stripping school of the arts. There is a very strong connection between drawing and good handwriting, but drawing is not a skill that is valued in our current educational climate. And if you are interested in engaging the whole brain, there’s nothing better than learning to play a musical instrument. Include cursive writing as part of arts education and this problem is solved, but no company marketing such a curriculum would be successful. They have to tie it to the 3 Rs for it to resonate.

  13. Bill Genereux

    April 25, 2013 at 7:24 am

    By the way, keyboarding is on the way out too. The most natural way for humans to interact with computers is the same way we do with each other – by speech. Someday soon we will be arguing over the importance of teaching the QWERTY keyboard as voice recognition supplants it.

  14. Kent

    April 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Everyone is putting their opinion here, so here is mine: Cursive writing is archaic and not essential for the classroom. I would much rather have students learning how to use a keyboard, or even interfacing with iOS devices than how to write in a manner no one of my generation uses, let alone that of my kids. We may as well be mandating Cuneiform in the classrooms. If you want to exercise children’s brains more, have them learn chess on class – not learn how to write in a manner that 99.x% of them will never use outside of the classroom.

  15. Gator Girl

    May 1, 2013 at 6:43 am

    It is appalling to think that cursive is no longer being taught. It is part of our language. Just because speech recognition basically works most of the time is not a logical answer to removing the skill and knowledge of writing. It is for communication. In the real world of employment, you cannot tap out a note to someone in every situation. Written communication is still needed and required. How many of those kids will get a shot at a real job if they cannot write properly? Not many. It is not acceptable to write in ‘text’ language but it actually is appearing in job applications because they truly do not know that ‘u’ is not an acceptable variant of ‘you’. Business, healthcare, finance, many industries rely on educated, articulate employees and they are getting fewer and farther between. Sad!!!

  16. JF

    May 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Cursive will be the secret identifier for private, top education verses lower public school education.

  17. Andy Logar

    May 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Of course we should abandon cursive – soo bothersome and time-consuming especially for lefties; why waste precious learning time on what’s tantamount to an archaic form of communication in the age of twitter and texting – where gibberish replaces the art, skill and discipline of cursive writing? And while at it – let’s do away with the multiplication table, which is oh, so yesterday (not to mention my bête noir, spelling). Why not be satisfied with kindergarten block letters – with an occasional backward R or K, who cares? And spell as you feel – everyone knows what you mean and an individualized “X” will do just fine when signing welfare checks.

    Unfortunately, I have the uncomfortable feeling that continually lowering the bar in education is to our nation’s great detriment. The fact that American students test 17th in international educational tests does not auger well for America maintaining Superpower status in the 21st century. While we dawdle and fade, the Chinese are culling the best and the brightest from a population of 1.3 billion – who are motivated, study hard, compete fiercely and are enabling their country to credibly challenge America’s economic and technological competitiveness.

  18. par404

    May 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Regardless of technology. Students should have the basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic.

  19. Terry101

    May 4, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    So Zaner-Bloser is backing bills mandating cursive. Is that any surpise? Even so, there is no guarantee that schools will teach Zaner-Bloser cursive. There are a number of alternative cursive instructional kits available. The ability to read cursive is necessary because it is still used by many people. Those who cannot read this script are put at a disadvantage.

    The esteemed Kate Gladstone is a proponent of italic writing as an alternative to cursive. Have any independent studies been done showing italic is superior to cursive?