23.8.04

SITZPINKLER ALERT. In some circles, the red pen is no longer the grader's color of choice, because it's too scary.
"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."
And to think that Northampton shows up on my birth certificate. Can I disown my native town?
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.
It's also linked to Finlanders on the Iron Range and bowling-shirt Poles in Milwaukee.

Thus, today's Weenie Worldview quiz: will purple first fall out of favor because of that royal connection or because somebody will discover that editors used to correct manuscripts using blue pencils? Erm, don't the education theorists have more pressing matters to think about than the symbolism of a red correcting pen? They've been fretting about this for the past twelve years?
"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."
Oh, good. I have a whole desk drawer full of over-the-top aggression. Let the slackers and the credential grubbers tremble at the thought of my aggression. Fortunately, I am not alone.
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.' "
Betsy's Page, who picked up the Boston Globe story, notes,
I've been hearing this vapidity in teacher workshops for the past 12 years. What a crock! As if kids don't know that a mistake is a mistake. I'm with [Ms. Jago].
Ayup, and as if pretending that a mistake isn't a mistake somehow encourages fewer mistakes. People respond to incentives. Parents, if your kids' teachers start grading with purple, plan to be assertive in teacher conferences.

RUNNING EXTRA: You'd think these hand-wringers had said something nasty about snakes the way Dr Swygert unloads on them.
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.
Her reaction to the "cult of self-esteem" is priceless.
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.
Erm, isn't that D-minus just a tad "aggressive?" Or does that "minus" make it passive-aggressive?

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