CONCORD, N.H. — Communism and cursive would be part of the mandatory curriculum in New Hampshire schools under a pair of bills harking back to bygone eras of history and handwriting.
The House Education Committee held public hearings Wednesday on Republican bills to require that students be taught cursive writing and and receive at least one hour of instruction on the nature and history of communism. The sponsors of both proposals said their legislation was inspired by conversations with concerned parents.
“Many schools do not teach history like they used to,” said Rep. Michael Moffett of Loudon, sponsor of the communism bill. “Educated citizens in America today need to understand what communism is and how that political and economic system has shaped our history affects all of us today.”
Both the New Hampshire School Boards Association and New Hampshire School Administrators Association opposed the bills, saying such curriculum decisions should be made at the local level. Also speaking against Moffett's bill was Sebastian Fuentes, New Hampshire Movement Politics Director for the Rights and Democracy advocacy group.
Fuentes said he saw the evils of communism growing up in Peru, but as a 40-year-old father of two children in public school, he does not believe teaching about it should be a priority.
“Communism is an issue, absolutely, but let’s talk about what is really killing our generation,” he said. “For example, white supremacy.”
“If we’re going to talk about Pol Pot and Mao and Putin and Nikita Khrushchev, let’s talk about George Floyd and Trayvon Martin,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about the siege of Saigon, let’s talk about the siege of the U.S. Capitol. ”
Other states have enacted similar legislation. Florida last year designated Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day” and began requiring 45 minutes of instruction on communism a year starting in the 2023-24 school year. In Arizona, a new law signed in June directed the State Board of Education to update its high school social studies academic standards to include a “comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principals of freedom and democracy that are essential to the founding principles of the United States of America.”
New Hampshire also isn't alone in debating the merits of cursive writing, with legislation considered in multiple states in recent years. According to the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, 25 states required handwriting instruction as of 2021, though it's unclear how many of them required cursive specifically.
Rep. Deborah Hobson, sponsor of the New Hampshire bill, said she was encouraged by research that suggests cursive writing “primes the brain for learning.”
“One scientist said that pen and paper gives them more hooks to hang your memories onto,” she said. “A lot of senses are activated by pressing the pen onto the paper.”
Hobson, of East Kingston, said she was particularly motivated by hearing of students with dyslexia who improved after learning cursive.
“I think that if we can help offset some struggles for kids, I think that’s a good thing,” she said.