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Coffee Break with Liz and Kate » Headline, Liz's Rants » Liz’s rant: The red pen

Liz’s rant: The red pen

For a couple of years now, I’ve heard much discussion over the use of the now-notorious red pen. Once a staple for every school teacher, it seems this sword of sorts wields power unknown prior to the late 90s. Oh, sure. It may look innocent enough, but there are those who claim that seeing red ink can cause irreparable damage in children’s psyches, by shooting down their self-esteem, causing them to feel inferior and crushing their self-confidence.

Raise your hand if your teachers marked errors in red ink. See? I just saw everyone’s hand go up in the air. Well, everyone’s except Colton’s, whose teacher grades in blue ink. Looking back, I’d say we all turned out just fine, wouldn’t you?

I can remember receiving comments like “Not your best work” (and sometimes it wasn’t :-) ) or “Excellent Job!” (when it was). I remember seeing A+ and B- and Incomplete (you get the point) and every daggone time, it was written in red.

But if a certain camp of nosy naysayers get their way, teachers around the world will be forced to leave their marks in a nice shade of green or blue – maybe even purple – as they correct the students mistakes.

As many of you already know, I’m a strong opponent of those who decide what’s best for the masses and force their views on others through the use of regulations and laws.

This whole thing reminds me of the deluge of trophies given out in various sports (and non-sports) based solely on participation, not excellence. Instead of realizing talents (or lack thereof), instead of learning a few basic rules in life (sometimes we win, sometimes we lose), instead of striving to be our best, we’re being told that everyone deserves equal recognition – win or lose, pass or fail. That what’s fair for one must be fair for all. (How, oh how, did we ever get to this place??)

Assuming that the red pen gets the shaft, a funny thing will happen. The new standard of marking papers in green or blue or purple ink will likewise fall under attack. Instead of using ink, someone will decide marking student’s papers in pencil is the only sure way to save the children from a lifetime of lethargy created by the dreaded pen. When the pencil comes under attack, they’ll say it’s time to let the children make mistakes, and give them all an A for effort (just don’t be so crass as to mark on their work).

If we aren’t careful, it’s coming. Mark my words. And by all means, use red ink.

-Liz

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