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Cursive bill is not 'write'

By KATE GLADSTONE - For the Connersville News-Examiner

I teach and remediate handwriting and direct the World Handwriting Contest. You might expect I’d support Indiana Sen. Jean Leising’s cursive bill.

I oppose it. Here’s why.

Handwriting matters ... does cursive? Research shows legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources available on request.) Highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting belong to those who join only some letters, not all – making the simplest joins, omitting the rest, using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree. The research establishing this was done by, among others, Dr. Virginia Berninger, whom Leising quotes as favoring cursive. Leising never mentions that the handwriting programs Berninger lists as most effective include several which fit the research instead, by joining only the most easily joined letters and consistently using print-like letter-shapes. (At a 2012 conference on handwriting, Berninger was asked which handwriting programs she regarded as the best produced by our civilization. She instantly replied: “Those of Australia.” The handwriting programs in Australia’s six states – including programs labeled “cursive” – require or permit print-like formations for all or almost all letters, and require or permit lifting the pen within words in order to avoid the most cumbersome joins.)

Regional/national mandates for cursive, in other countries, have sad outcomes (including bad effects on handwriting) – morrellshandwriting.co.uk/blog/

Food for thought: the first handwriting textbooks ever published in our alphabet (500 years ago) taught a semi-joined, print-like style: the common cursive of the day. What we, today, call “cursive” did not emerge until the Baroque Era – although Leising prefers her audiences to believe that what we call “cursive” today must have existed before any of the other (and often better) handwriting forms. (In 2014, Leising even publicly claimed that cursive was necessary for learning to read from left to right: This is like claiming that six-foot-wide hoop-skirts or stovepipe hats are necessary for learning to get dressed.)

Reading cursive still matters – yet even children can be taught to read handwriting that they are not taught to replicate. Reading cursive can (and should) be taught in 30-60 minutes, to anyone who reads print. If reading cursive is the rationale for writing it – which Leising often claims – then let’s teach children to read cursive: along with teaching other vital skills, such as some handwriting style actually typical of effective handwriters. Far less time, money, and training are required for this actually practical goal.

What about signatures? Leising hopes you’ll never learn that, in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. Hard to believe? Ask any attorney! Or ask Governor Holcomb – or Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury. (Mnuchin’s signature, on every dollar bill since he stepped in, is clear, efficient – and full of printed forms and pen-lifts. Holcomb’s signature, much less legible, is likewise full of pen-lifts and non-cursive letters. Both are fully legal.)

Educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; 8 percent printed. The majority – 55 percent – wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.When even most handwriting teachers don’t write cursive, why mandate it?

Leising’s cursive bill has been rejected, year after year, by the House Education Committee, so she’s sometimes resorted to sneaking it around to every other House committee, from Agriculture to Ways & Means.

In 2018, Leising was caught misrepresenting the work of Indiana University researcher Dr. Karin Harman-James. Harman-James’s research had documented that handwriting (any handwriting) has educational advantages over keyboarding, but that wasn’t enough for Leising – who therefore misquoted the research by asserting that these advantages had been found only in cursive. Details: www.hoosiertimes.com/herald_times_online/news/local/iu-researcher-legislator-s-editorial-basically-lying/article_2f71ebc7-61cb-5650-be94-e1915b60d0d6.html and www.hoosiertimes.com/herald_times_online/opinion/and-another-thing/article_9e2d7358-9d29-5284-a1d2-3908fc771e69.html

Concerned citizens must ask a question Leising never answers: Why pass a bill whose introducer defends it by varying from the facts?

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone of Albany, N.Y., bills herself as a handwriting remediation expert and can be found on the web.