Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Another Brick in the Wall...

...As Long As It's Not A Red Brick

(Originally Posted April 4, 2005)

Thanks for the Memory to The Llama Butchers.

TFR and I have already decided that, if at all possible, The Lad will receive his primary education either at home or at a private school.

This article sealed that decision.

Apparently, schools are discontinuing the use of red pens for grading and correcting papers because it "stresses children out".

Now, those who know me personally know that, due to my own educational background (I was diagnosed as having an unspecified "learning disability"), I'm no fan of hidebound approaches to education. But this seems a bit over the top.

The article goes on to describe the negative connotations associated with red ink, and that it focuses too much on the mistakes in a paper. I believe they've missed the point.

When I was a child, the connotation of red ink had nothing to do with the quality of the student's work. It had everything to do with the teacher's authority. Red ink was reserved for teachers. So when you saw red ink, you knew that whatever was written in it carried weight. I remember one algebra teacher who had a tendency to mark GOOD papers with more red ink than he did the poor papers.

In the end, the message conveyed has more to do with the teacher than their pen. If they're good, they'll find ways to convey to a student both the areas in which they did well, and those that need improvement. I recall looking forward to words of praise written in red ink!

The article itself ends with a comment that I think sums up well my own response:

In Charles County, Maryland, reading and writing specialist Janet Jones helps other teachers lead their lessons. The students at Berry Elementary School in Waldorf, Maryland, use colored pencils to edit each other's papers. By the time teachers get to grading, Jones said, the color they use isn't that important.

"I don't think changing to purple or green will make a huge difference if the teaching doesn't go along with it," Jones said. "If you're just looking at avoiding the color red, the students might not be as frightened, but they won't be better writers."

Sadly, it would seem that in too many cases these days, that's just fine with educators.

Update (6/7/05)

The Llama Butchers are weighing in on this issue again, in response to an essay by Christina Hoff Summers. Both are excellent reading.

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