(WBIR) Cursive handwriting might be a dying art, but a measure before the Tennessee House of Representatives attempts to save it in an era of keyboards and keypads. House Bill 1697 would require all public school students in Tennessee to learn how to read and write in cursive, preferably around the third grade.
State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, authored the bill after being told by parents and teachers that kids today couldn't read their handwritten notes. Butt frets the day may come when Tennesseans will no longer be able to sign their names legibly or read the Bill of Rights in its original form.
The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Monday night. Action on a companion bill filed in the Senate has been delayed until next week.
"Imagine you not being able to sign your name to buy a home or buy a farm or buy a car or vote or anything -- it just made sense to me," said Senator Frank Nicely, who wrote the companion Senate bill.
Butt estimates that half of elementary school students in Tennessee still receive instruction in handwriting. The legislation has breezed through House committees, with Rep. Jim Coley, a schoolteacher, agreeing wearily the ability to read and write by hand appears to be on the way out.
"Not only do kids not know how to write cursive, they don't know how to write, period," said the Bartlett Republican. "The style is really rather tragic, to see some of the materials we have to read."
One of the legislature's youngest members, Rep. Raumesh Akbari, agreed.
"I think it's terrible," said the Memphis Democrat, who is 29. "Because you really need to be able to write in the event that your computer or your phone or your iPad — all those batteries are dead."
The bill has been such a crowd-pleaser that some lawmakers fear it could become a vehicle for more controversial legislation. Before he would allow a vote on the bill, House Education Committee Chairman Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, asked Butt to pledge publicly that she'd try to stop any attempt to attach other education initiatives to her bill.
At a time when Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided, it appears that curly Qs, looping Ls and flowing Fs are one thing they can agree on.