Monday, July 29, 2013


Spotted this at Twitter this morning:

The link goes to this McClatchy story (emphasis added):
Six months ago, top Republican state lawmakers met with conservative allies to preview their strategy for the legislative session.

The party controlled the entire lawmaking process in North Carolina for the first time in more than a century, and top legislators made their ambitions clear. Big changes were coming.

The leader of a conservative political organization left the meeting calling the agenda "breathtaking."

After the session, the description seemed like an understatement....

Once the new laws take effect, the new North Carolina will require photo identification at the polls, levy a flat income tax that reduces rates for many, make it harder to get an abortion, offer less generous unemployment benefits, require cursive-writing education in schools, give low-income families vouchers for private schools, require fewer government regulations on businesses, resume executions for capital crimes and allow concealed handguns in bars and restaurants....
I understand the others -- they're high on the wish lists of right-wing billionaires and/or the angry right-wing base.

But cursive writing? Seriously?

Back in April, NC Policy Watch found that special interests really are interested in this (emphasis added again):
... When Rep. [Patricia] Hurley introduced the bill, her stated justification to mandate cursive writing instruction included the claim that PET scans show that your whole brain works when you're doing cursive, but that "only half" of your brain works when you are doing manuscript, and that your brain "doesn't work" when you are keyboarding.

A handwriting instructor, Kate Gladstone, became curious as to what kind of research supported Rep. Hurley's claim. Upon inquiring with Hurley's office, legislative assistant Deborah Holder sent Gladstone this article, MJ12 Berninger_NAESP Article_May2012 -- which, in fact, does not support Hurley's claims and even notes possible benefits to keyboard instruction in early grades.

Hurley mentioned during her introduction of the bill that ALEC supplied her with background information with regard to cursive writing instruction. Pressing further, Gladstone asked Hurley's office how she obtained research relevant to the bill, and Holder explained that they had received a lot of information from a "source in South Carolina."

Upon further inquiry, that source turned out to be a sales rep from Zaner-Bloser, a for-profit company that promotes cursive writing and sells handwriting instructional materials. Incidentally, the South Carolina legislature is considering an identical bill to mandate cursive writing instruction, no doubt after having received the same research pushed to them by the Zaner-Bloser sales rep....
I get it, but I don't get it. Zaner-Bloser is a privately held company from Ohio. Its CEO, Robert Page, doesn't seem to be a big deal on the right (I don't see any contributions at all to Republican pols from a Robert Page or Bob Page in Ohio when I search).

When I see multiple states pushing identical legislation that can be construed as right-leaning, that tells me ALEC is at work. And, of course, one of the supporters of this bill says she got information on it from ALEC.

But why? To help one little company? Wouldn't that money otherwise just go to another company taking another approach to the subject? Why wouldn't ALEC be just as happy to champion a company teaching a different way?

I just think ALEC is willing to get behind anything that offers even a slight opportunity to stir up conflict between Evil Liberals and Real Americans who support "traditional values." A writer at National Review's Corner, straining to find a pro-cursive argument, came up with this: "Students should be able to read the script of this country's historical documents." But how does that help students understand those documents? What can you possible learn from the script version of the Declaration of Independence that you can't learn from the printed text? And does mean that you're not a real Christian if you can't read Aramaic, or can't read the lettering of the original King James Bible?

To me this is just a Koch brothers group looking for a new issue to divide Americans with or engaging in right-wing social control. I wish these SOBs would stick to naked greed.


Buford said...

The Koch brothers are starting to smell the coffee burning...We as a country are onto them as being one of the major corrupting influences in politics today...So, They are stepping up their assaults on our rights within the states...they are going full press in Colorado with their dumping of money in two recall elections...they are trying to divide us. they are the enemy...

Victor said...

The Koch's father was one of the founders of the John Birch Society.

And between him, and his whole family, they have done far more damage to this country than all of the "Fifth Columnists" they kept screaming about, from the Russian Revolution until the fall of the USSR, could have dreamed of!

So, yeah, this is a classic "Divide and Conquer" move.

It works with the bigoted, the stupid, and ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that one of their big bwahahas in the George Zmmerman case had to do with Rachel Jeantel not being able to comprehend cursive writing. I assume that it's a bit like spanking -- something whose waning indicates that the nation is gone soft.

BH said...

Next, I guess ALEC will be telling their wholly-owned-and-operated state legislators to crusade for the return of McGuffey's Readers and teachers who board at various parents' homes.

aimai said...

Actually I think although its weird, its totally related to an overall cohort effect of old people shaking their fists at clouds. My daughters are in the generation which did not learn to write cursive and therefore can't read it. In addition one of them doesn't hold her pen/pencil correctly and her handwriting looks just bizarrely childlike. The emphasis at her extremely expensive private school was all on learning and thinking, which is cool--I'm all for child led learning and thinking--but the end result is a child for whom cursive and, really, handwriting, is a closed subject.

I know my parents--80 years old--are very upset by this and I actually am, myself. There actually is some research on the brain that does show that the kind of long term practice involved in handwriting and cursive (printing and cursive, I mean) does have an effect on brain wiring. I don't think anyone knows what the downside of not learning is, but they do know that certain kinds of people with certain learning disabilities have trouble with writing and there are definitely neurologists and psychologists who are working on building those connections and working with those people by teaching them cursive. This is addressed, somewhat, in the book "The Brain that Changes Itself" and the Biography of a woman who founded several schools based on the principle that neurons that fire together/wire together. I think her autobiography is called "The Woman Who Changed Her Brain."

At any rate, I totally get being able to use this as a wedge issue because the kind of old folks who need to be mobilized by the krank brigade are seeing this stuff in action--their grandchildren can't read a handwritten letter. Or any document that wasn't typed.

Kathy said...

You know what would really help kids engage their whole brains? Take all this money the Kochs are pouring in and use it to fund arts programs in every school in the country. Give every student the opportunity to participate, and incorporate the arts into the existing curriculum as well. Problem solved.