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Bill would require schools to teach cursive writing

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The Indiana Department of Education’s mandate that schools are no longer required to teach cursive writing may not be written in stone after all.

Today, the Indiana Senate’s Education Committee is set to hear a bill newly filed by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg; and Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, that would again require the teaching of cursive writing in public schools and accredited private elementary schools.

The DOE informed schools in April 2011 that cursive writing was no longer required in the CORE curriculum. Keyboarding skills took the place of cursive writing in the standards.

Local educators have surprisingly diverse opinions on the issue.

G-C Superintendent Linda Gellert is somewhat torn on the issue.

“There are those who say cursive writing is a dinosaur. I have mixed feelings about it. in my world, you don’t accept any handwritten documents,” said Gellert. “I’m also a traditionalist. It’s a sobering thing to think students might not be able to read cursive in 15 years.”

An object lesson in that is on bulkheads throughout the high school.

“Our bulkheads are scripted with very lofty messages. I can’t help but think that 12 years in the future students might not be able to read them.”

On the other hand, schools are under intense pressure to be able to thoroughly teach the state standards in a 180-day time frame. Anything that is not absolutely required, even if it’s cursive writing, will not get the same amount of attention, Gellert said.

“I’m encouraged they’re going to look at it again, but it’s not that important to me. With everything else we have to do, it’s not a top priority.”

Southern Hancock Superintendent Jim Halik has tried to keep his district as much on the cutting edge of technology as possible.

But as far as he’s concerned, there’s no replacing good old reading, writing and arithmetic. And he’s passionate about it.

“There are some basics a child needs to learn early: to read, to write, to do simple math computation,” Halik said. “I don’t think even technology can replace those three. It’s only a tool to assist in learning of those three concepts. I think it’s a shame to remove those from public school curriculum, and we don’t need the Legislature to tell us to teach it. We have continued to teach it.”

Bill Riggs, superintendent of Mt. Vernon schools, is also convinced there will always be a necessity to learn to write and read in cursive.

“I’m not convinced it will be a virtual world. You will still have to find a name or read something in someone’s hand. It’s how you sign a check.

“We continue to teach but not grade it,” he said. “I think it’s important.”

Eastern Hancock Elementary Principal Amanda Pyle is another educator who cannot imagine a world where reading cursive writing will not be a necessity.

The school continues to teach the skill but not with the emphasis it has in the past, said Pyle.

“As a staff, we see a necessity to be able to sign legal documents, read in public things we run across in our lives that are written in cursive,” she said. “If you’re educated at all, you need to know what it says.”

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