Writing on the whitewall

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 12:43 AM

From the same state legislature that seems to want to curb liberal arts and boost business come a couple of ideas that do neither.

First, there's House Bill 146, also known as the "Back to Basics" bill. It was introduced by four-term Republican Pat Hurley from Asheboro.

This refreshingly brief piece of legislation would mandate that students learn to write in legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.

Those who rally for the return of the age of the painstakingly handwritten letter with elegant cursive text may embrace this plan.

Back when cursive was taught more extensively in school, it was one of the first liberal arts concepts introduced to children. Sure, we already knew how to print our names in blocky letters, but now...now we could spiffy it up with angles and loops.

Necessary? Not really. But it did give forensic handwriting experts a lot of material to work with.

But, sorry, Old Script fans, we're beyond the cursive age. Some kids are texting on smartphones before they can print legibly. How often do their parents use cursive? Maybe when they're signing checks, if they don't use automatic bill pay from their internet-based checking accounts. Perhaps when they're scrawling a message in a birthday card, if they don't send an animated virtual card.

We're rapidly getting to the point where we can expect that the next generation's Ken Burns won't produce a documentary using eloquent letters from the field of war, but instead might use famous actors to give voice to blog posts, tweets and Facebook status updates - none of which use cursive, unless they've got a font for that.

So, while we’ve got nothing against schools voluntarily teaching cursive, we see no reason to mandate it.

Second, we've got House Bill 59, the return of a familiar oil-smudged, exhaust-choked, rattle trap of an idea: eliminating motor vehicle safety inspections. Julie Howard of Mocksville, a 13-term veteran of the state house, brought this one back from the dead.

We understand that every little bit counts in our household budgets these days, but we consider the $30 spent on an annual vehicle inspection a worthy investment.

For some motorists, that mandatory inspection is the only time they get a mechanic to check out their car all year long. Those inspections can uncover hazards, defects and other safety concerns. The benefit here is two-fold. On one hand, it makes roads safer. On the other, it leads to business for auto repair garages.

Both these bills need to fade away before our grandchildren's flying cars break down in the hover-through bank teller lane while they try to sign their names in cursive on dwindling unemployment checks after losing their jobs at the online 3D-printed widget factory.