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EDITORIAL

Cursive, foiled again! How not to write a wrong

State shouldn’t meddle in local school districts’ policy agendas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 12:01 am

Let us be absolutely clear about one thing: We applaud the teaching of cursive writing in our public schools. As good conservative traditionalists, we heartily approve of keeping something that has served us so well for so long. But that does not mean we endorse the proposal of some in the General Assembly to require the teaching of cursive by school districts. That's just meddling, which is not a political philosophy.

Contrary to the idea some have gotten, the Indiana Department of Education did not ban the teaching of cursive. But when it adopted the common core state standards earlier this year, teaching of the writing style became optional instead of mandatory. That is in keeping with a perfectly good conservative principle: Local educators best know the needs and challenges of their students, so let them keep control.

But state Sens. Tim Skinner of Terre Haute and Jean Leising of Oldenburg are considering legislation to make cursive mandatory again. Leising says she is appalled that students may no longer learn the writing style that has connected generations of Americans. We share her concern, and not just for tradition's sake. Certainly, keyboarding skills are important, but not so complex to teach that writing should be pushed aside. And mastering penmanship makes the brain work in ways that will help students in other areas.

But please let individual school districts decide.

This may seem like a very small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it is part of a growing and distressing trend. Since the beginning of this nation, education has been cherished as a local function. The federal and state governments are exercising more and more control, however, through efforts such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and Istep+. We are getting closer to uniform standards and a national curriculum.

It may be a losing battle in the long run, but local educators still know what's best. We should hold on to whatever small shred of autonomy we have left.