Post script? Parents, lawmakers fear cursive becoming lost art

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Kids can text on tiny keyboards, convey their thoughts in 140 characters or less and use numbers for prepositions, but some states fear they soon may not be able to sign their own names.

In this digital age of Internet acronyms, like "LOL," and emoticons, Tennessee is the latest state pressing for legislation that mandates students learn cursive writing in school.

Lawmakers in the state are pushing for passage of House Bill 1697, which would require all public school students to learn how to read and write in cursive, preferably by the third grade.

The bill, authored by state Republican Rep. Sheila Butt, is meant to prevent a decline in students' ability to read handwritten notes and sign their own names as well as interpret historical documents in their original form, like the Declaration of Independence.

"Cursive writing is timeless because it connects us to our past," Butt told

"Across the state, we have students who are able to read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on their own," she said, "And then we have students who can only learn about it though a third party. "These are foundational documents that are critical to our history."

Butt said her motivation to craft the bill came after parents complained to her that their children were unable to read handwritten assignments. Upon further investigation, Butt's findings were startling, she said.

"I found out that in my county there were high school juniors and seniors who could not read a cursive writing assignment a teacher had written on the board," she told "And there were juniors and seniors who did not have a cursive signature to write on a legal document."

Tennessee is one of at least six states with lawmakers urging that cursive by mandatory. Five other states -- North Carolina, California, Georgia, Massachusetts and Virginia -- already have laws in place to make sure students learn to read and write in script.


The push to require cursive learning does not appear to be a partisan issue.

"The art of being able to write should not be lost in the digital age," Tennessee state Rep. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat, told "If you don’t know how to write in cursive, generally you wont be able to read in cursive."

Lawmakers, like Butt, cite studies suggesting that cursive writing enhances eye-hand coordination as well as fosters students to be more expressive when writing.

"Studies show that when students write out an essay -- rather than key-boarding it -- the work is much more thoughtful," Butt said.

Common Core standards implemented by the U.S. Department of Education do not include cursive writing in the curricula. Akbari, however, said the omission does not mean educators cannot add cursive writing to their agenda.

"It's just not one of the subjects that isn't tested under the Common Core, but there are teachers who are teaching it now," she said. "This legislation is to ensure that every student learns it."

Akbari said third grade is the ideal level for students to learn cursive because by then they they have mastered the basic components of reading and writing.

Tennessee lawmakers plan to vote on Butt's legislation next week.