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April 05, 2005

Contributing to the End of Civilization

Can someone explain this to me? Has this country gone insane? This is the kind of mamby-pamby bullshit that... that.... I'm so upset, I can't think of a good ending for this sentence. But it's bad.

I am not a big believer in coddling. Cuddling? That's different. I'm at least as good a cuddler as Ned Flanders ("He looks like a cuddler, that Ned"). But coddling? No way. Just ask my kids. Seriously, it doesn't help. I just weakens people. And I would think that the teachers of today would be interested in..., oh I don't know, strengthening their students, rather than weakening them?

Let's look at some snippets from this story:

Parents objected. Red writing, they said, was "stressful." The principal said teachers were just giving constructive advice and the color of ink used to convey that message should not matter. But some parents could not let it go.

"Some parents could not let it go." Arrgh. Are you kidding me? These stupid parents aren't doing their kids any favors here. Can you imagine what goes on in the mind of a parent that would go to their kid's school and complain about the color of the ink that was used to correct their kid's work? I'm sure at least one of them had to stop at a traffic light on the way to the school. Hope seeing the red light at the top wasn't too stressful for them.

"You could hold up a paper that says 'Great work!' and it won't even matter if it's written in red," said Joseph Foriska, principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh.
He has instructed his teachers to grade with colors featuring more "pleasant-feeling tones" so that their instructional messages do not come across as derogatory or demeaning.
"The color is everything," said Foriska, an educator for 31 years.

No, the color is not everything. You sir, are just an idiot. This guy is a teacher, excuse me, an educator in an elementary school. Grades K through 6 I would assume. So kids are coming into his school with presumably no preconceived notions about the so-called evils of red markings on their school papers. Yet he is saying that if the words "Great Work" are written on a child's paper in red ink and not a color that features more "pleasant-feeling tones", then those words would "come across as derogatory or demeaning." Yeah, like if you had a class of incredibly intelligent students enter your school in kindergarten and through all their years of study all you had to do was write "A+" and "100%" and "Great Work" in red ink on their papers, would that be demeaning to them?

At Public School 188 in Manhattan, 25-year-old teacher Justin Kazmark grades with purple, which has emerged as a new color of choice for many educators, pen manufacturers confirm.
"My generation was brought up on right or wrong with no in between, and red was always in your face," Kazmark said. "It's abrasive to me. Purple is just a little bit more gentle. Part of my job is to be attuned to what kids respond to, and red is not one of those colors."

Boo to you previous generation, with your "rights" and your "wrongs". Let's have a world of "in between". A purple world of "in between".

Except, presumably, you'd like to teach your students to do things "right". How about making it part of your job, Justin, to have your students respond to *you* and not make this about the color of your pen? The point is to get the student to learn, not to feel better about not learing, or almost learning.

The disillusionment with red is part of broader shift in grading, said Vanessa Powell, a fifth-grade teacher at Snowshoe Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska.
"It's taken a turn from 'Here's what you need to improve on' to 'Here's what you've done right,"' Powell said. "It's not that we're not pointing out mistakes, it's just that the method in which it's delivered is more positive."

Not to get all Ayn Rand/Incredibles here, but this seems like a bad approach. If you turn Powell's sentence around, it seems like she's being more positive about mistakes. But, um, making mistakes is a negative. Isn't it? Can you be positive and use red ink about what was done right and still be negative and use red ink when you point out mistakes? I would think that the last thing you want to do when pointing up mistakes to impressionable grade schoolers is to do it in and upbeat and positive way. Especially if it is the same positive and upbeat way that you're pointing out what they've done right.

That is a sound approach, said Leatrice Eiseman, a color specialist with a background in psychology who has written several books on the ties between colors and communication.
"The human eye is notoriously fickle and is always searching for something new to look at it," she said. "If you use a color that has long been used in a traditional way, you can lose people's attention, especially if they have a history of a lot of red marks on their papers."
Purple may be rising in popularity, Eiseman said, because teachers know it is a mix of blue and red. As she put it: "You still have that element of the danger aspect -- the red -- but it's kind of subtle, subliminal. It's in the color, rather than being in your face

God help me, they've brought in a color specialist. I think the fact that a job like this exists at all is part of the problem. Hey lady, guess why red is traditionally used for grading papers? Because red is a color that is easy to see. No more, no less. Not because it has an element of danger! Jeez, you have got to be kidding me. Some of my best papers from high school had a big red "A" on them. At no time in handling that paper did I feel that I was in danger. Oooooh, danger! And purple has "subtle" danger. Not truly dangerous like that in-your-face red, but more subliminal. Subliminal danger. So that the kids in school are all uncomfortable and feel like in the back of their minds they've made mistakes, but they just don't know why. Cause it's subliminal. No mixed message there, no sir.

To sum up: Some people are idiots. And those idiots are helping churn out a new and larger generation of idiots.

Posted by aellis at April 5, 2005 10:45 AM

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