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Why Indiana senator Jean Leising keeps trying to get cursive writing taught in schools

Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-18 09:24:05-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For the seventh consecutive year, Sen. Jean Leising introduced a bill in 2019 that would mandate cursive writing in Indiana schools. But like all the years before, it died before becoming a law.

Even though her bill may have died, the spirit of what she’s been trying to do still has a shot in the 2019 legislative session.

Leising, R-Oldenburg, amended a current House bill to require school corporations, charter schools and accredited nonpublic elementary schools to teach cursive writing to students. The bill passed the Senate Tuesday, and now heads to conference committee.

She said when Common Core was debated and made standard in Indiana in the early 2010s, many schools stopped teaching it.

“What we now are seeing is 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds, depending on what school they went to, not only do they no longer have a signature, but they actually can’t read cursive either because they were never taught cursive.”

Of course, what many people would say to that is, “What’s the problem with that?”

Leising knows not everybody in the state agrees with her on cursive writing. After all, she carries around an iPhone and has an iPad. But she still uses a pad and paper – and writes in cursive.

She can cite one anecdote after another of constituents and employees at the statehouse approaching her to tell stories of people who don’t know how to read or write in cursive – 15-year-olds who can’t get a passport, new employees who can’t sign their paychecks.

“If people really don’t want cursive, then we’ll have to have the real world catch up with the fact that nobody is going to use cursive anymore,” she said.

Since 2017, Illinois, Ohio and Texas have passed laws requiring the teaching of cursive writing in schools. Indiana is now actually in the minority as a state that doesn’t require cursive writing.

Leising said a recent survey of her constituents showed overwhelming support for the cursive writing bill.

“The people I represent still want it taught,” Leising said. “And I think that’s one of the reasons I’m here – to represent the people.”

The bill she amended, House Bill 1640, will go to a conference committee, where her amendment could be removed.

If that’s the case, Leising said she will probably introduce a similar bill in 2020.

Because Leising has introduced the bill for the past seven years, she is known for that year after year. But she doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she embraces being the person who tries to get it passed every year.

“I rarely now bring it up,” Leising said. “I don’t have to bring it up. People ask me, ‘Hey, are you having any luck on cursive this year?’ So I know there are people out there who still want to see it happen.”