Meet The Mom Pushing To Require Tennessee Students To Know Cursive

Conservative activists around the country have attacked Common Core for not including cursive instruction. However, Tennessee education officials say state standards have never mandated cursive. Credit: Josh Hallet via Flickr

Conservative activists around the country have attacked Common Core for not including cursive instruction. However, Tennessee education officials say state standards have never mandated cursive. Credit: Josh Hallet via Flickr

Tennessee school children may soon be required to learn cursive, which has never been mandated. A family from Columbia is responsible for making handwriting a legislative issue.

To Steven McCrary, cursive looks like a foreign language.

“Uh, Spanish,” the junior at Spring Hill High School says. “Right now, I’m trying to teach myself, but it ain’t working too good.”

What McCrary missed as a kid became a problem when one of McCrary’s teachers insisted everyone write in cursive. To avoid falling behind, he ended up transferring schools.

His mom took the issue to freshman state Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), and discovered some schools have dropped cursive to spend more time on subjects found on standardized tests.

“It’s very sad,” Susan McCrary says.

She acknowledges technology has made penmanship less critical for day-to-day life.

“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “There is a lot of documents that is in cursive and that is very important.”

Instead of your usual extracurricular activity, Steven McCrary is a bull rider. He says one reason he wants to learn cursive is to improve his signature for when he'll be signing autographs. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Instead of your usual extracurricular activity, Steven McCrary is a bull rider. He says one reason he wants to learn cursive is to improve his signature for when he’ll be signing autographs. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

McCrary points to the Declaration of Independence.

“He can’t read it,” she says of her son. “He don’t have a clue what it says.”

Conservative activists around the country have used a similar line of attack to undermine new Common Core State Standards, which do not include cursive curriculum. However, Tennessee school officials say cursive has never been a requirement.

Seven states have passed laws requiring cursive instruction. Tennessee’s proposal has sailed through the state House virtually unopposed. A full floor vote is scheduled for Monday night. Then the Senate will begin debate.

The Tennessee Board of Education would be charged with making sure schools teaching cursive at the appropriate grave level. Deputy director calls the legislation “kind of unorthodox” and a “diversion” from leaving curriculum decisions to experts.

Education officials get nervous anytime the legislature wades into curriculum decisions. However, they also tend to agree that kids should be able to read and write in cursive.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.