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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?

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