The write stuff - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

The write stuff

Legislators seek to require Idaho students to learn cursive

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Coeur d'Alene teacher David Groth recalls a time, less than a decade ago, when kids showed up for fifth grade able to read and write cursive, with many of them using longhand regularly.

"Learning it was a real rite of passage," said Groth, a 34-year educator now teaching fifth grade at Sorensen Magnet School of Arts and Humanities in Coeur d'Alene. "Kids were excited about it."

Those days are gone. This year, Groth has one girl in his class who uses the looping, curving writing form exclusively. He said he no longer uses cursive when he writes instructions or lessons on the board in front of his classroom.

"I don't do it that way anymore because inevitably, I'd have three or four kids who couldn't read it," he said.

It's a time of transition, Groth said, but cursive is still "part of our world."

That's one of the reasons an Idaho Falls lawmaker says he's waging a campaign to ensure that longhand writing doesn't get short shrift in the state's public schools. Republican Rep. Linden Bateman's call for a returned emphasis on cursive is picking up steam among state legislators.

This week, members of the House Education Committee unanimously passed a resolution brought forward by Bateman, a retired educator. The measure calls for the Idaho State Board of Education to create a rule requiring that cursive writing be taught to Idaho students. The resolution will now go before the full House.

"If we do not teach cursive, the day will come when people will not be able to read cursive," Bateman said last month when he introduced the measure to the chamber's education committee. "Family history study will suffer, genealogical research will suffer and historical research of all kinds will suffer."

In making his case for cursive, Bateman also cites studies indicating that learning longhand improves fine motor skills and language comprehension.

The call for cursive comes as Idaho's schools prepare to fully transition to the new Idaho Core Standards, the state-level, localized version of the Common Core Standards. The Common Core initiative is a multi-state effort to align and raise educational standards in English language arts and math in kindergarten- to- 12th-grade. Idaho schools will be using the new core standards this fall.

"We have great respect for Rep. Bateman and the conversation he has started about cursive writing," said Idaho Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. "I think everyone has stopped at some point over the past few weeks and practiced their cursive writing, just to see how they do, which is a good thing."

The Common Core and the Idaho Core standards do not include any requirement to teach cursive in the state's elementary schools.

"While these new standards focus on what we believe is most essential for students to know and be able to do, we recognize they do not include everything that should be taught. A great deal is left to the discretion of the teacher in the classroom and local school district. This includes items previously in state standards, like cursive," McGrath said.

McGrath told The Press the new standards are fewer, clearer and higher and give teachers and local school districts the flexibility to decide how, or if, they will teach cursive at a certain grade level. But, they are still Idaho standards, she said, and can be added to.

"Rep. Bateman has made a good case for why cursive writing might still be necessary in our standards at the state level, not just at the local level," McGrath said. "For these reasons, Superintendent Luna has said that, as a member of the State Board of Education, he will make sure we follow through with the resolution if the Legislature passes it."

Matt Handelman, associate superintendent in the Coeur d'Alene School District, said that teaching cursive is still part of the district's third grade curriculum. As the district works to localize the new core standards, Handelman said they are rewriting the district's curriculum guidelines, and cursive is part of those conversations.

"The most important part of it is being able to read primary source documents, historical documents, even the letter from grandma," Handelman said. "We also have to pay attention to the desires of the community."

Cursive writing has traditional value to some people; others see it as an art form, he said.

The district is working to determine how much time to dedicate to teaching cursive, he said, while at the same time, balancing it against the many other things teachers have to focus on.

"I think we should spend some time on it, but not too much time," Handelman said. "There are other things that are more important like learning math facts, grammar skills, keyboarding and how to interact with your peers in a positive way."

Sorensen teacher Groth said that if teaching and learning cursive were to fall by the wayside completely, he doesn't think it will be a problem. People will adapt, he said, as they always have when modernization overtakes convention.

A less-than proficient reader confronted by an original cursive document, like the Declaration of Independence, will face a stumbling block, Groth said.

But for skilled readers, it will be easier.

"They'll be able to figure it out," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • eq72521 posted at 10:19 am on Tue, Feb 12, 2013.

    eq72521 Posts: 29

    @Mabell: You're absolutely right, of course. It was early and I think I was still operating pre-coffee that morning. That he's taught for 34 years sounds about right. My mistake.

  • Idaho Spud posted at 12:17 pm on Mon, Feb 11, 2013.

    Idaho Spud Posts: 40

    I was appalled last year when I found out my 13 year old Niece who goes to school at Kellogg did not know how to write cursive. My sister in law said that they no longer teach it, are not required to learn. I say lazy teachers. These kids need to be taught to read and write cursive and continue practicing until they get it right! Whatever happened to Penmanship Class? I went thru it in grade school, learned to read and write. What's gona happen years from now when no one knows how to read or write it? It will be like a foreign language. Hope the schools bring it back in.. and even have classes for the older ones that should have learned it already!

  • The Simple Truth posted at 11:40 am on Sun, Feb 10, 2013.

    The Simple Truth Posts: 563

    How else do think they'll maintain the place as one of the most conservative states in the Union? If they let the kids get educated, they'll run the cons right out.

  • my own opinion posted at 11:03 am on Sun, Feb 10, 2013.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    Lazy teachers stupid kids, this is typical Idaho. Redneck does not require any knowledge above basic stupid and ignorance oh and that deer in headlight stare you get when you are normal and they look at you all lost. Carry on.

  • Mabell posted at 9:31 am on Sat, Feb 9, 2013.

    Mabell Posts: 166

    @eq - It doesn't say he is a 34 YEAR OLD educator - it says he is a 34 year educator. Awkward wording, yes. I think the writer is trying to indicate that he has taught for 34 years.

  • Mahiun posted at 9:26 am on Sat, Feb 9, 2013.

    Mahiun Posts: 5415

    Being left-handed, I can't say I was sorry to see cursive go the way of the dinosaur. Cursive writing, when performed with the left hand in a left-to-right direction, means that you are constantly dragging your hand through whatever you've already written; there's just no way to avoid it. I went through all of elementary and high school with a permanently ink-stained side of the hand.

    It also meant that whatever I wrote, no matter how carefully, would emerge as nearly illegible, because of the smearing caused by that dragging my hand through it as I wrote. It wasn't until college, when legibility and the actual content of the writing were more highly valued than "the Palmer method" and how beautifully written utterly nonsensical content could be that things changed.

    Now, I'd have to agree that my signature is the only thing I ever write in cursive any more. I will print, if I'm taking notes or in some other situations where I can't type, but I'll type by preference, any time I can.

  • eq72521 posted at 6:49 am on Sat, Feb 9, 2013.

    eq72521 Posts: 29

    Was there a typo? I know David Groth and, while I'm sure he would be flattered, I'm fairly certain he is not 34.

  • truthful1 posted at 2:02 pm on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    truthful1 Posts: 554

    This is utterly stupid - the only cursive I've written in decades is my signature. Everything else is either typed or printed. ALL handwriting is pretty much pointless these days. And given how indecipherable my grandparents cursive was, I'm very happy for this fact.

  • 3GenNative posted at 12:47 pm on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    3GenNative Posts: 191


  • 986crazy posted at 8:25 am on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    986crazy Posts: 432

    "I think we should spend some time on it, but not too much time," Handelman said. "There are other things that are more important like learning math facts, grammar skills, keyboarding and how to interact with your peers in a positive way."

    Agreed. Beyond signing your name, I don't see much use for cursive.

  • mister d posted at 7:40 am on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    You have pretty much summed it up voxpop. When will the legislature let teachers do their jobs instead of attacking them at every front. It is no wonder so many leave the profession and this state. First the kids leave to find livable wage jobs, then the professionals leave for states that actually support education.

  • Rationale posted at 7:32 am on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    Rationale Posts: 1976

    Yeah, veeee, why teach cursive handwriting. Kids printing their "signature" in crayon is enough. Doctors printing scripts and signing them without cursive handwriting will make it more difficult to forge.

    The only reason not to teach cursive is because society is lazy and stupid. They refuse to actually look at the future ramifications of their actions! Let's get rid of all written books; let's remove all written proof of anything. After all, we have computers, and they NEVER fail us!

  • voxpop posted at 5:45 am on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    First Goedde with his favorite tome and now another with their own particular fascination. The facts are that there is only so much time in the school day/year and it's full up with stuff our kids need every day. Every historic work is available via printed text and reading an original version would be difficult for anyone. The point is not HOW it's written only WHAT the meaning is. If Goedde and his pals want to add their own little personal wish list to the school day let them increase the length of the term. Of course, then the teacher's union would expect more pay and business would complain that their slave labor was at risk. Best if the legislature just leaves education to the pros. Oh, and that certainly doesn't include Luna.

  • Veeeee posted at 5:37 am on Fri, Feb 8, 2013.

    Veeeee Posts: 420

    Here we go again with legislators clawing the past into the future,having read a study or two and dictating what is good for us. Technology is here and cursive is out. We don't have scribners in the back rooms laboriously copying documents anymore...we have copy machines. We rarely see anyone in professional life taking notes by hand...we type and much more quickly and efficiently than writing. We rarely write letters by hand anymore and drop them into a mailbox, we send an email or Skype. Let go and move on...sheesh! thank you

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