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The cursive mandate debate continues

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017

* NBC 5

Gov. Bruce Rauner has rejected a measure requiring Illinois elementary schools to teach cursive writing.

The measure was among several bills Friday that the Republican took action on. In his veto message, Rauner says the legislation is “yet another unfunded mandate” for schools that doesn’t protect students’ health or safety.

Proponents had said it’s important to teach tech-savvy kids to write in cursive so they can sign documents, write personal notes and read historical texts. The proposal would’ve taken effect in the 2018 to 2019 school year.

He vetoed the bill last Friday. Click here to read his full veto message. The bill passed the Senate 41-15, so that’s a veto-proof margin. But the House vote was 62-38.

* Sun-Times

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said in an email that he was “disappointed” by the veto.

“Research is clear that cursive writing improves cognitive learning and other important things in life,” Welch said. “But we are talking about Bruce Rauner, who could care less about kids and working families.”

* Illinois Policy Institute

Imposing a mandate on school districts – and by extension, taxpayers – at an unknown cost is irresponsible given the high tax burden piling up at the local level. Instead of adding a new cost, lawmakers should be looking to ease that growing tax burden. And reforming school districts, rather than placing additional mandates on them, would be a good place to start.

* From the Senate’s sponsor, Kimberly Lightford

“The governor’s veto threatens the ability of students to learn a fundamental skill that they will need going through life. Practical benefits, including writing a check, developing a motor skill and even interpreting historical documents like our Constitution, all require using and understanding cursive writing.

“Even with advances in technology that have emphasized more typing and less writing, we cannot give up teaching a skill that students will still need in their lives.”


“If the parents want cursive writing, they should tell their district,” said state Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville. Superintendents argued that the state should be legislating safety and civil rights issues, not cursive writing. Others argued that there were more important things that schools needed to focus on, and abandoning cursive was a sign of the times.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Christopher - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:32 am:

    You mean cursive writing isn’t where the young kids today use curse words? /s

  2. - Honeybadger - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:35 am:

    Seriously, when did schools stop teaching cursive and how is that an unfunded mandate that would affect taxpayers?

  3. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:36 am:

    Cursive writing is a skill people need in their lives? You don’t need to write in cursive to write a check or do anything else. That assertion is just absurd. If you want to mandate something mandate that all students be provided a computer and that technology be an integral part of the learning process. That would be beneficial.

  4. - PJ - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:36 am:

    For once I agree entirely with Rauner and the IPI. What a moronic piece of legislation. I fully understand that legislators can do more than one thing at a time, but … really? Everything going on in Illinois and this is what we’re doing? Forcing schools to teach kids to use a style of writing that they will quite literally never need?

  5. - The Way I See It - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:36 am:

    Funny, I thought schools were in the business of teaching reading and writing.

    Turns out that was another unfunded mandate. Who knew?

  6. - Jack Kemp - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    Cursive writing is a “skill” that I learned but did not retain. I don’t write in cursive, and my signature can hardly qualify as cursive either. I understand the “developing motor skills” argument, but other than that I think the arguments for fall flat.

    How many people read the Constitution straight from the original document? The script isn’t even the same as modern cursive. And how many of these kids are gonna be writing checks by the time they’re 18?

    Just my two cents.

  7. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:40 am:

    You can teach a kid how to write his or her name as a signature and not teach any other cursive. I know mortgage and loan docs will require signatures. Even then will checks be around in 20 years? I still use checks but every major bill we pay is through a bank or credit union that really, really, really pushes us to autopay or bank drafts in lieu of having to process a check.

    I keep thinking of the scene in Billy Madison: “I hate cursive and I hate all of you!” Not too many cursive handwriting jokes or movie scenes.

  8. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Is teaching English also an unfunded mandate?

  9. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Requiring schools to teach basic skills is not an unfunded mandate. Neither is requiring certain courses be passed before granting a diploma.

    The logic of the veto fails.

  10. - PJ - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    As someone who learned cursive for all of 3rd grade, I have never one time (ever) in all of my educational or professional life needed to use it.

    If schools want to teach it, fine. But there’s no logic for mandating it. It serves no practical purpose.

  11. - Grape Juice - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    Is this really what politics has come to? Rauner vetoes a bill to require cursive writing be taught in schools and Welch turns it in to a five-alarm fire political talking point “Bruce Rauner, who could care less about kids and working families.”

    This boy-who-cried-wolf routine is a good example of the toxic environment in politics right now.

    It’s time we call out absurd, over-the-top political rhetoric like this. Enough.

  12. - gadfly - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:44 am:

    My thoughts exactly, Honeybadger @10:35 am. There’s a profoundly ignorant assumption that our children don’t need to be trained to read primary sources, or to become successful educators, scholars, poets, historians, librarians, calligraphers, artists, etc. Follow the logic of the argument against cursive writing (that it’s no longer needed, kids only need to learn to type and write in print) to its logical conclusion: Shall we only teach our children how to speak into a voice to text device and push pictograms on a screen?

  13. - Simple Simon - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:44 am:

    My kids were just taught cursive by their regular elementary school teacher. No extra cost incurred, no special cursive teacher hired. And they need it more to read cursive than to write it.

  14. - Political Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    I am no fan of Mr. Rauner. But I side with him here. When did the General Assembly become the experts about primary grade education? I think teaching cursive is important. But we do not need a law to mandate the entire curriculum in school. The GA should stick to important policy issues and let schools and teachers do their jobs with less micromanaging.

  15. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    Good - Schools should not have their curriculum mandated by the state legislature with the exception of core subjects.

  16. - Steve Rogers - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:00 am:

    Cursive writing isn’t on standardized tests, therefore, it shouldn’t be taught. /snark

  17. - Union Dues - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:01 am:

    Cursive has its uses. I can take notes in classes or instructions from others much faster in cursive. Doing that in print or trying to record all of those things would be a pain.

  18. - NorthsideNoMore - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:03 am:

    Key boarding is far more important skill than caligraphy. In 40 years the only folks using pens will be artists. The State needs to review the mandates they have forced upon education the past 20 years and eliminate some of those a s well and certainly not add too them unless they want to mandate longer school days (for the same pay) because we know they cant give more $$$ to education.

  19. - Just Me - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    Let’s remove cursive writing and add keyboarding, which has far more cognitive uses.

  20. - Diogenes in DuPage - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    (As a retired educator of 40 years) i don’t see how this is a state issue. This should be a local control issue. (Maybe when the State pays 51% of Illinois’ public education costs, it could have more of a say on this non-health and non-safety issue.) Further, maybe it’s time we stop educating students for our past, and start educating them for their future.

  21. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Grape - spot on. I get why someone like Dan Biss throws that kinda rhetoric in with everything he discusses or releases. But for Rep. Welch to do that all the time is just tiresome.

  22. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    While it doesn’t need to be legislatively mandated, it does have value that adds no cost to schools. I have to say my college aged child can’t sign his checks (has to practice writing cursive) and can’t read my letters unless I print. What else can’t he read that’s in cursive ? Cursive does have value.

  23. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    Steve Rogers, that is no snark. If it can’t be assessed it doesn’t count. That is the truth. Everyone/everything must be measured and evaluated. Talk about taking the fun our of learning…..

  24. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    —Funny, I thought schools were in the business of teaching reading and writing.

    Ummmm…I mean really. Writing is about constructing sentences and then paragraphs and thoughts not that you do it in cursive.

    Cursive isn’t a skill that’s needed today. And if you think it is, let the local school district decide.

  25. - northsider (the original) - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    I see this as further stratification and separation of society. Private and catholic school students will learn cursive, and will be able to write thank you notes to potential employers, comprehend original sources and manuscripts, spontaneously jot down thoughts and impressions whether they have access to a keyboard or not, and generally master a skill and discipline that improves spelling, co-ordination and the cognitive process. The rest of the kids won’t.
    Scott Walker wanted to change the University of Wisconsin aspirational mission statement to
    “Fulfilling Wisconsin’s workforce needs”. Looks like Rauner wants to start much younger.
    Education, especially grammar school education, isn’t vocational training.

  26. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    How is cursive writing “yet another unfunded mandate” for schools that doesn’t protect students’ health or safety? I use cursive regularly, nowhere as neat as Mrs. Gardner demanded it years ago. Who needs chemistry, algebra, shop, geography, or civics. None of those protect health and safety, yet I use the basic skills those subjects require everyday.

  27. - TheGoodLieutenant - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 12:12 pm:

    It wasn’t mandated in the past, why the need to mandate it now? Let the school districts decide if teaching cursive writing is necessary. I haven’t written in cursive in over 40 years. And really, cursive writing is so different from block print that it can’t be easily deciphered by today’s youth? Have the children change the font in their word documents to “freestyle script”.

  28. - Morty - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    A solution is search of a problem. Elementary school teachers still teach cursive during language arts. The ability to write legibly is still evaluated through high school (generally as a part of a writing rubric).

    All of which is different than mandating a class for the teaching of cursive, which would require scheduling issues and paying teachers.

    It’s an exercise in redundancy

  29. - Jibba - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:19 pm:

    GL…you only perceive that cursive is similar to printing because you have been taught. My kids are unable to read handwritten notes from their Grandma, who has exquisite penmanship. Privilege?

  30. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    Northsider - seriously? I really wish I could use an exclamation point there. No one is saying that schools cannot teach cursive. Welch’s bill would make it mandatory.

    How many kids do you think write thank you notes anymore?

    I sometimes shake my head over the items and issues which we debate in this state.

  31. - Ferris Bueller - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:48 pm:

    Schools teach all sorts of things we don’t need to use every day, that is the nature of education. Should they stop teaching math since you will always have access to a calculator (and when is actually the last time you’ve needed any knowledge you learned in calculus or trig)? It isn’t a “burden” to teach or learn cursive (its a tiny part of your elementary education). They should also teach typing but you still have time to teach cursive writing.

  32. - RD55 - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 2:00 pm:

    Hate to burst your bubble northsider But I know of one Catholic school, two private schools and several Public Schools that no longer teach Cursive writing. Lack of time was one of the reasons they stopped teaching it replaced with keyboarding.

    I have not written in cursive since grade school and my signature does not have one cursive letter in it, checks are still cashed.

  33. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 3:05 pm:

    After reading all these comments, I guess if parents think it’s important, let them teach it at home. Couldn’t kill them to do that much, could it?

  34. - dbk - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 3:49 pm:

    I eagerly await an IPI-sponsored bill allowing for Illinois citizens in future to sign official documents with an “X”, authorized by a scribe.

    That’s how they used to do it in the good ‘ole days, after all.

    /s (I think)

  35. - dbk - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    I eagerly await an IPI-sponsored bill allowing for Illinois citizens in future to sign all official documents with an “X”, notarized by a scribe who has learned to write.

    That’s how they used to do it in the good ‘ole days, after all.

    /s (I think)

  36. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:08 pm:

    Students should be taught handwriting, it’s a useful tool — but not cursive. There are other writing methods, called fluent and italic styles, which are much easier to learn and much more legible.

  37. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:22 pm:

    === When did the General Assembly become the experts about primary grade education? I think teaching cursive is important. But we do not need a law to mandate the entire curriculum in school. ===

    Umm…. school districts are creatures of state government. The state government imposes all sorts of mandates on schools. Let’s just have all schools teach whatever they want with no consistency or standards.

  38. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:23 pm:

    === It wasn’t mandated in the past, why the need to mandate it now? ===

    Because all the schools were teaching it in the past, and now many aren’t. Hence no mandate needed before, mandate needed now.

  39. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 4:44 pm:

    Agree with Gadfly, and Anonymous @ 11:47a. And I don’t see this as an unfunded mandate, but I guess I assumed that schools were still teaching cursive. Showing my age! I was taught cursive and while I may not use it every day, I’m thankful for the capacity to pen hand-written thank you’s, condolences and the like. And I am eternally grateful that I can read my grandmother’s recipes, my grandfather’s father’s letters home during wartime, and my mother’s journals. They’ve all passed on but seeing their writings always make them feel closer somehow. It makes me very sad to think that if children are not taught to read and write cursive, there will soon be troves of historical documents that few will be able to understand, learn from and enjoy.

  40. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 7:19 pm:

    My kids wont be able to write checks? What the hell is a check? Just a sec, Im going to give 1993 a call and ask.

  41. - CEA - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 7:56 pm:

    Call me crazy, but I think it is likely that the sun will rise tomorrow even if critical decisions like if, how and when to teach cursive writing remain the province of local school boards and superintendents.

  42. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 10:52 pm:

    1) You can still hand write notes w/out cursive
    I use it far less over time because when I’m taking notes it often is more burdonsome
    2) It takes a fair amount of time to teach it
    3) writing checks can be done with printing other than the signature. Seriously. One can sign something w/out being taught cursive for years. Also see most signatures and whether they relate to anything decipherable.
    3) Your grandmother’s nice notes aren’t a big deal for school curriculum. You can teach it at home if you think it’s that big of a deal.
    4) There are things called phones, tablets, and computers you can take notes on if need be, but there is still this thing called printing.

    5) Historians will still be able to decipher cursive. The vast majority of humans do not fall in that category.

  43. - OurMagician - Thursday, Sep 28, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    The mandated class needs to be Free Speech, what it is and what it isn’t.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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