Senate committee passes cursive bill

khui@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2013 

— A bill requiring North Carolina elementary school students to learn cursive handwriting and to memorize multiplication table continued to steamroll its way through the General Assembly on Wednesday with no opposition.

The state Senate Education Committee unanimously passed the “Back to Basics” bill, which would once again make cursive handwriting a part of the curriculum for the state’s public elementary schools. The State Board of Education would be expected to make sure that public schools provide instruction so that students create readable documents in cursive by the end of fifth grade and have memorized multiplication tables.

The bill, already unanimously approved by the state House, is scheduled to be voted on in the full Senate on Thursday. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year. School systems would be allowed to make accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

“For commonsensical reasons, I think there is overwhelming support for this bill,” said Sen. Austin Allran, a Catawba County Republican and the bill’s sponsor.

The bill has drawn some criticism from liberal groups that argue it’s a waste of time to require cursive instruction. South Carolina legislators are considering an identical “Back to Basics” bill.

“In their eagerness to drag the schools and children of their states back to the early 20th century, legislators in North Carolina and South Carolina want to mandate the teaching of cursive writing,” Diane Ravitch, a liberal education historian and commentator, wrote in her blog last week.

But supporters of the bill say learning cursive will help children with their brain activity, motor skills and self-discipline.

Traditionalists have for years bemoaned the lack of attention cursive has been getting in North Carolina public schools, even though it was officially part of the curriculum in third through fifth grades.

But this school year, cursive supporters became more upset when North Carolina became one of 45 states to implement the “Common Core” standards in language arts and mathematics. Common Core – aimed at providing uniformity in what’s being taught in classrooms nationally – doesn’t mention cursive.

Individual school districts currently decide whether to teach cursive.

The backlash over the lack of cursive in Common Core has resulted in the reinstituting of cursive as a requirement in California, Georgia, Idaho and Massachusetts.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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