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Old 09-08-04, 02:06 PM
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Default Red Ink

Teachers Back Away From Red Ink

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

By Megan Dowd



An F is an F, but failure seems so much friendlier when it comes in
purple.

A growing number of the nation's educators are stocking up on purple
pens (search) for grading papers and passing on the traditional red,
which they say can be intimidating and damaging to a student's self-
confidence.

"Teaching should always be a positive practice. Red seems to stand
out in such a negative way," said Dorothy Porteus, school support
specialist with the New York Charter Schools Association
(search). "Little guys internalize the red and it doesn't make them
feel good."

Porteus, who taught elementary school for 20 years, said a teacher
should coach kids to do their best, not scare them into thinking
they'll never be good enough. She equates using red ink with drawing
a frowning face on a student's work.

"They put all this effort into something and by marking it up with
red, in some ways it is like tearing their hard work to shreds," she
said. "They look at the red and think the teacher is upset with
them, and this greatly influences their attempt to do their next
paper."

Critics of the move toward a kinder, gentler color say kids have
lived with red ink for decades and aren't helped by teachers going
easy on them.

Michael Barone, author of "Hard America, Soft America: Competition
vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future," (search) said
the push for purple is an example of American teachers going soft on
students.

"This is ridiculous, because the only reason we associate red with
bad in a classroom atmosphere is because that is the color that has
been used to correct papers for decades," he said. "If teachers now
switch to purple, in time purple will become negative, and then
what?"

According to Barone, young people today exist in a "soft" culture,
which emphasizes self-esteem and protects them from the realities of
adult life

Some parents, too, argue that changing the color of an F doesn't
alter its meaning, and if it gets the student's attention, it has
achieved its purpose.

Keishla Erdelyi, whose daughter Kylie is entering the fifth grade
this fall, says the most important thing is for her daughter to know
what mistakes she made on a test or essay.

"It really doesn't matter what color the ink is, it's just the grade
itself," said Erdelyi. "She's aware of what her grade is, if it's
good or bad. No matter what the color, she is upset with herself if
she gets a bad grade."

But Porteus isn't alone in this purple approach to marking papers.
The retreat from red is even affecting some pen distributors' fall
color scheme. Barry Calpino, Paper Mate's (search) vice president
and general manager, estimated that the company boosted production
of purple pens by at least 10 percent.

Office supply superstores are also getting the signal 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 because it is not as intimidating as red. Staples (search)
and OfficeMax (search) are adding purple to multicolor packs and
selling all-purple packs.

Nevertheless, critics warn a purple reign is pointless.

"Children can figure out if they're being corrected even if they're
not being corrected in red ink or red pencil," Douglas Sears, Dean
of Boston University School of Education, told FOX News. "They know
when they're being criticized, and by the way, they should be
criticized when they're not spelling or punctuating correctly."

Still, Porteus stresses that educators should draw attention to the
progress students make rather than their downfalls.

"Highlight the good and students will work harder," she said. "Some
educators think if you punish the kid it will make them do better.
It just doesn't work that way."
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Old 09-09-04, 01:09 PM
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Wow thanks for the article! I think that is neat that they are going to change colors...I know I was so upset to see my papers marked up with red ink.
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Old 09-09-04, 01:21 PM
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Neat article! I never really thought about the red ink.
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Old 09-09-04, 05:40 PM
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I have to say that I disagree with the concept. I do not believe in tiptoeing around bad schoolwork. I believe in positive reinforcement in most cases, but a failing paper is a failing paper, and the kids should feel bad about it. If it is no big deal to fail, then why try harder at all? JMO Good article...thanks!
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Old 09-10-04, 03:28 PM
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I tend to agree with Amanda on this. I think we sometimes "cater" too much to our kids feelings to the point that they aren't going to learn how to deal with these situations in the real world. If an F is a failure than it should look like a failure and not disguised to look better than it is. JMO too,
 
no offense I hope to anyone, I could see both sides but I fear that we are making things too easy sometimes and that it all needs to be a part of growing up and learning to do better. Great article, thanks for sharing.
 
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