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.”
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.