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N.C. House passes cursive handwriting bill

By T. Keung Hui
khui@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH The state House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Thursday requiring North Carolina elementary school students to learn cursive handwriting and to memorize multiplication tables.

The “Back to Basics” bill 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.

With legislators fearing that cursive handwriting is becoming a lost skill and that students are relying too much on calculators, the bill drew no opposition. The normally combative arguments on the House floor were replaced with laughter Thursday about whether anyone would vote no.

The bill drew 107 yes votes with no dissenters.

“A few didn’t vote,” said House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Matthews Republican. “We wonder whether they can’t write in cursive.”

The bill, H146, now goes to the state Senate. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year with state education officials saying it could be accommodated into the curriculum.

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 Grades 3 through 5.

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 decide whether to teach cursive.

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

State Rep. Pat Hurley, an Asheboro Republican and a primary sponsor of the bill, said learning cursive will help children with their brain activity, motor skills and self-discipline. And, she said, it aids students in reading historic documents, such as letters from Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

“It would ensure students are ready to function in the larger society,” she said, adding that state education officials have told her that systems can make accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

Amid Hurley’s lengthy defense of the bill, state Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, asked her a question.

“Do you know anybody who opposes this bill?” Michaux asked, ending the one-sided debate.

Hui: 919-829-4534
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