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Jennings Sunday: WRITING ON THE WALL?


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JENNINGS County School Corp. is resolved to continue teaching cursive writing because it believes it helps develop the motor skills of students.

Jeannie Koelmel, administer of curriculum for JCSC, cited research, including that by child psychologist Dr. Karin Harman James at Indiana University, that shows that cursive writing improves the functions of the brain. The rhythm of the motions of cursive writing improves the flow of brain activity, which develops strong communication and fine motor skills, she said of the research.

A state senator who introduced a bill that would require all Indiana school systems and all accredited non-public elementary schools to include cursive writing in their curriculum, shares with the school corporation the same views on the importance of cursive writing.

Teaching cursive is optional in Indiana schools, but if legislation by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, passes in the Indiana General Assembly, and is signed by Gov. Mike Pence, it would again be required by state law.

Leising originally introduced the bill for a cursive writing requirement last year to counter a law from 2011 that made teaching cursive optional in Indiana. Her bill died for lack of a House hearing, but came back this year when Leising reintroduced the legislation.

Senate Bill 120 passed the Senate on a 36-13 vote and now awaits action in the House.

Leising said people who have approached her have been concerned that children will lose the ability to not only write cursive, but also to read their grandparents’ birthday cards, historical documents and other written materials.

“It’s not about us writing pretty,” Leising said.

She said the urgency to hold on to cursive writing goes deeper than that.

Studies by child psychologists show that connecting letters from left to right trains the brain to more clearly understand the written word, Leising said.

Computer keyboarding is valuable in an entirely different way and should not be considered the same, she added.

“When I first did this last year, I did so because people were concerned about how their kids would sign their names,” Leising said. “But this year, we started hearing from child psychologists. MRIs prove that brain activity is going on when a child is writing in cursive.

“Students who take notes with notepads and pens retain more than students who keyboard them,” she added.

Jennings schools begin teaching cursive writing with second-graders, during the second semester.

Third grade is when cursive writing is taught throughout the entire school year.

Jennings schools make sure students through the sixth grade are progressing in the ability to write in cursive.

All Jennings County High School students are expected to read and write in cursive.

“We did our research,” said Koelmel. “We want to do what is best for our children, not just be followers of a new trend. I brought all the second-grade teachers in JCS together and we studied the research on the value of teaching cursive writing.

“Using their combined total of 340 years of experience in education, after studying the research, the second-grade teachers determined, by all means, for the good of the students, we should continue to teach cursive writing in our schools,” Koelmel added.

Teaching cursive writing also is a matter of common sense, Koelmel said.

“If you can’t write it, you can’t read it. Our students will be at a terrible disadvantage in the global environment if they are faced with cursive writing and they don’t know how to read it.”

Peggy Fear, principal at Graham Creek Middle School, agreed that cursive writing should be taught in JCS.

“After students leave the school environment they are going to run into cursive writing at their jobs, at church or at college,” she said. “They need to know what it is and be able to read and write it. We have to teach cursive to the children or they will not be able to choose whether or not they will use it or understand it.”

Jennings schools will continue to teach methods of using keyboards, said Koelmel.

Brenda Campbell, the mother of a seventh-grader at St. Mary’s School in North Vernon and a son at Jennings County High School, believes it is important to continue cursive writing.

“I use computers, keyboards and other electronics all day, every day, but I feel it is extremely important to continue education in cursive writing,” said Campbell, director of the Learning Center at the Jennings County Public Library. “Cursive writing allows us to have our own signature and that is an important part of our individual identity. It is very important that we do not allow technology to replace our individualism.”

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