The state Senate passed a bill Thursday requiring public schools to teach cursive writing despite questions over the need for a new mandate and the validity of arguments supporting the measure.
The bill, which also requires students to memorize multiplication tables, passed 38-7.
Legislators supporting the bill said that even in the digital age, students should learn cursive.
“They have the right to know the same types of things we knew when we were coming along,” said Sen. Austin Allran, a Hickory Republican and the bill’s sponsor.
But Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, said the legislature shouldn’t add mandates schools may not need or want when they already have so much they have to teach.
“I struggle with the concept of a top-down approach to education,” he said.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, an Orange County Democrat, distributed to senators copies of a blog post from N.C. Policy Watch that challenged the validity of the claims touting the effects of writing in cursive on the brain.
Policy Watch linked the bill to Zaner-Bloser, a company that sells handwriting curricula.
The Ohio-based company said it was not the source of the North Carolina bill or bills filed in any other states.
“We learned about the bill from the media,” said Brad Onken, senior vice president for strategic marketing and business development. “We do not employ lobbyists for any handwriting efforts at all.”
In the last few years, several states have required public schools to teach cursive. A bill is pending in Indiana, and the South Carolina legislature has a bill identical to North Carolina’s.
While the state’s cursive bill has made international news, a handwriting instructor from New York, Kate Gladstone, said much of the arguments made in support of cursive writing were not accurate.
“There’s no evidence it makes you smarter, more graceful, or more human,” she said.
Rep. Pat Hurley, an Asheboro Republican and sponsor of the House bill, received information from a Zaner-Bloser sales representative. In email exchanges with Gladstone, Hurley’s legislative assistant referred to the sales representative as “our contact in South Carolina,” and “a source in South Carolina.”
Hurley said she came up with the idea on her own after she received letters from fourth-graders that were written in print, not cursive.
“I feel like this is just another skill you need to get by,” she said.
Kinnaird, the Orange County senator, voted for the bill because she liked the requirement for multiplication. But Kinnaird heard from constituents that teaching cursive wastes valuable time.
“What people should be very concerned with is to write a bill and justify it with suspect information,” Kinnaird said.
The House passed an identical bill unanimously, but both chambers will have to pass either the House or Senate bill before it’s sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.