For 45 years, Rep. Linden Bateman was an educator. Now, he says, hes a desperate romantic fighting to save cursive handwriting in the public schools.
Well walk, even though we have planes, cars, motorcycles, elevators, skateboards, pogo sticks whatever, Bateman told the House Education Committee on Tuesday. And even though we have computers and cellphones and other whirligigs, were still going to write. Its just part of our being.
Following a 15-minute speech peppered with old handwriting samples, neuroscience and a reminder that Wednesday is National Handwriting Day (John Hancocks 276th birthday), a grinning committee voted to introduce the Idaho Falls Republicans measure aimed to spare cursive writing from the dustbin of history.
I just so appreciate what hes trying to do, said Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow. My daughters 25 and I tell her she writes like a 5-year-old.
The resolution asks the State Board of Education to write a rule requiring instruction in cursive handwriting. Academic standards are set by administrative rule, not statute.
Bateman taught history and government for 37 years, at Skyline and Bonneville high schools. He then spent eight years as a supervisor of student teachers for Idaho State and BYU-Idaho, retiring in 2011, when he began his second House career. Bateman also served from 1977-86.
Time passes like a fast-flying cloud, said Bateman, 72.
Speaking to the committee in a navy pinstripe suit and black wingtips, he kept time on an 1896 gold pocket watch. Batemans father was a railroad switchman, his mother an elementary schoolteacher.
Bateman told his colleagues they could leave their mark, allowing students to continue to read the Declaration of Independence, family letters and diaries.
This is where you have a chance to make a difference, he lectured. You feel your power and influence right now. If we leave it to the local school districts, well lose it.
He gets wound up, said one of Batemans former students, Stuart Davis, a lobbyist and executive director of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts. Davis recalled Bateman getting scolded by his principal for taking an unauthorized field trip to view an exhibit of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia.
In November, Bateman placed an ad in the Idaho Falls Post Register, thanking voters in his own hand. He writes 100 or more letters a year, bombarding his nine grandchildren and affixing old stamps. Heres Martin Van Buren, George Washington, Iwo Jima, the Battleship Wisconsin, Bateman chirps.
The grandkids rarely reciprocate. I usually get a phone call or an email, but Im on a crusade, he said.
Bateman also rails against what he calls a coarse, casual, even vulgar society, lamenting replacement of mid-calf dresses and V-neck sweaters with jeans and hoodies. No one would put a sign on the front of their shirt when I was a kid, he said.
House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, couldnt help but laugh when Bateman extolled the Turner Classic Movie channel. Everybodys so elegant even the criminals dress up, Bateman said.
Penmanship is more than stylish, Bateman said, citing research that says cursive writing advances reading, comprehension, writing, art and fine motor skills. Its good for their little brains! he said.
Batemans bottom line: Handwritings not going to disappear. Thats one reason we should continue to teach it, because it projects intelligence and gracefulness, whether we want it to or not.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics