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Cursive Legislation: What Are They Really Mandating?

California, it seems, has joined the growing number of US states that have passed laws mandating a particular form of handwriting (generally a cursive form) to be taught and required in elementary schools. However, the wording of the California law is unusual, and comes as a surprise to many parents, teachers, and educational decision-makers in that state and elsewhere — because the law’s wording requires “cursive or joined italics”: and nobody in the legislature which passed the law, or in the Sacramento educational bureaucracy which has been charged with enforcing it, has answered questions.

One perplexed teacher asked me: “Well, what are ‘joined italics,’ anyway? We are apparently permitted to teach them, but when we ask what they are, or how to tell if a program we’re considering is permissible within this unfamiliar category, the answer is sheer silence.”

Media coverage hasn’t helped clear up the mystery, either. Without exception, so far, news media coverage of the recently passed law incorrectly describes it as mandating cursive: with no mention of what is apparently an alternate pathway towards fulfilling the requirement.

To fill the informational gap, Jonathan Dubay, the chief executive of, has prepared this analysis of the bill, which provides detailed background on the handwriting styles and terminology involved.

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