Just when I think the cult of self-esteem can't advance any further in our educational system, they prove me wrong:
When it comes to correcting papers and grading tests, purple is emerging as the new red.
"If you see a whole paper of red, it looks pretty frightening," said Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton. "Purple stands out, but it doesn't look as scary as red."
That's the cue pen makers and office supply superstores say they have gotten from teachers as the $15 billion back-to-school retail season kicks off. They say focus groups and conversations with teachers have led them to conclude that a growing number of the nation's educators are switching to purple, a color they perceive as "friendlier" than red.
Come ON people! If your students are flunking, do you really think it matters - to them, to their parents, to their lives - what color you use on their papers? My dissertation advisor used nothing but green ink in his pens and at times my dissertation drafts looked like leprechauns had bled to death on them. Do you think I felt better about having to change every word, twice, just because I got the message in green rather than red?
Here's a hint, teachers - if your students' papers are swimming in a sea of red ink, you have many more important things to worry about than the colors of your pens. Trust me on this.
A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red's sense of authority but also blue's association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers, color psychologists said. Purple calls attention to itself without being too aggressive. And because the color is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students.
"The concept of purple as a replacement for red is a pretty good idea," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., and author of five books on color. "You soften the blow of red. Red is a bit over-the-top in its aggression."
This is why I don't drink while blogging - I'd spit my mead all over my keyboard laughing. It's nice to know that a deep purple pen can make it all better for a student who received a D-minus. Yes indeedy. And now the teacher can feel better about herself, too, because she's not being "over-the-top" in her "aggression", which is what touchy-feely types define as "grading objectively" these days.
"I do not use red," said Robin Slipakoff, who teaches second and third grades at Mirror Lake Elementary School in Plantation, Fla. "Red has a negative connotation, and we want to promote self-confidence. I like purple. I use purple a lot."
Sheila Hanley, who teaches reading and writing to first- and second-graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Randolph, said: "Red is definitely a no-no. But I don't know if purple is in."
Hanley said a growing contingent of her colleagues is using purple. They prefer it to green and yellow because it provides more contrast to the black or blue ink students are asked to write in. And they prefer it to orange, which they think is too similar to red.
Are these the same teachers who are complaining that the testing requirements leave them no time to teach? I can help them save a few hours right here - just use whatever pen is cheapest and mark the darn papers.
But aside from avoiding red, Hanley said she is not sure color matters much. At times, she uses sticky notes rather than writing on a child's paper. What's important, she said, is to focus on how an assignment can be improved rather than on what is wrong with it, she said.
Isn't it sad when the argument that teachers should be wary of pointing out what is wrong with papers is the most sensible thing in an article? No, I take that back, the article actually winds up with a quote from a model of common sense, although we're probably suppose to conclude that she's hopelessly old-fashioned:
Red has other defenders. California high-school teacher Carol Jago, who has been working with students for more than 30 years, said she has no plans to stop using red. She said her students do not seem psychologically scarred by how she wields her pen. And if her students are mixing up "their," "there," and "they're," she wants to shock them into fixing the mistake.
"We need to be honest and forthright with students," Jago said. "Red is honest, direct, and to the point. I'm sending the message, 'I care about you enough to care how you present yourself to the outside world.' "
Note to the Boston Globe - Ms. Jago, and others like her, are not defending the color red. They are defending the right to ignore these silly issues and the cult of self-esteem, and focus instead on teaching their students.
In my opinion, the fear associated with getting an essay back that's been marked up with red ink is the best conditioning a student can get. They'll want to improve to prevent errors and the emotion associated with failure.
What the hell is purple going to connote? "Oh, Jilly, I love you very much, but could you please not use so many comma splices, thank you!"?Posted by kswygert at August 23, 2004 09:40 PM