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Beginning this fall, it’s looking like a safe bet that North Carolina elementary school students will be required to master cursive writing.

That’s because the Senate just passed the second of two identical bills, titled “Back to Basics,” which would mandate mastery of cursive by fifth grade and memorization of multiplication tables.

There has been little opposition to the bills, even in the face of questionable research that the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph), held up in support of cursive writing, saying 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.

Back in April, NC Policy Watch learned that research and other documents supporting cursive writing instruction were emailed to Rep. Hurley by a South Carolina-based sales rep from Zaner-Bloser, a for-profit company that promotes cursive writing and sells handwriting instructional materials. Eighty-five percent of their client base comprises teachers, schools or school districts who purchase their custom made handwriting instruction kits.

Incidentally, the South Carolina legislature is considering an identical bill to mandate cursive writing instruction and memorization of multiplication tables.

After NC Policy Watch published the story about the link between the cursive bill and Zaner-Bloser, a representative from the PR firm Paul Werth Associates, hired by Zaner-Bloser, called this reporter to arrange an interview with Kathleen Wright, National Product Manager for Handwriting at Zaner-Bloser, to “clear the air,” with regard to the cursive bill.

Wright explained that Zaner-Bloser routinely gets calls for their independent research related to handwriting instruction, and that Rep. Hurley’s office reached out to them for information about cursive writing, which was why the sales-rep passed materials on to Hurley’s office.

Subsequently Rep. Hurley told NC Policy Watch that the sales rep from South Carolina actually reached out to Rep. Harry Warren (R-Warren), who ignored the rep’s emails but passed them along to Hurley. She said she then decided to respond and that was when Zaner-Bloser’s sales rep passed along the related research and “things from all different sources,” according to Hurley. Warren did not return a call to confirm Hurley’s account.

Zaner-Bloser is not registered in North Carolina to engage in lobbying activities.

The cursive writing bill now moves to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk to be signed into law.