Seeing Red

Would red marks on a paper or test frighten your child? Would
he/she be scarred for life? Well, thanks to some pseudoscience that’s growing in
popularity, your kids (and mine) probably won’t be subjected to such “frightening”
corrections. It seems purple is the new grading color of choice.

“If you see a whole paper of red, it looks pretty frightening. Purple stands out, but it doesn’t look as scary as red. ” – Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher

I have nothing against purple. In fact, it’s my favorite color. Then again, I don’t have anything against red, either, at least as the color of grading pens. On the whole, I think this pen color issue is nonsense. Heaven forbid we scare a kid into doing better next time! A little bit of negative reinforcement can be a good thing.

On the other hand, there is some substance to studies of psychological responses to color. For instance, green is a dominant color in hospitals because it is a soothing color. Red can be an a aggressive color. Bright, hot colors inspire aggressive thoughts. Cool colors are soothing.

I still think the pen switch is a waste of time, thought, and energy, though. Instead of worrying about Americans falling behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, particularly in sciences, we’re trying to soften the blow of failure. Instead of wondering why the kids make so many mistakes – and fail to learn from them – we’re color coordinating marks of their inadequacy with fuzzy feel-good quackery.

Suddenly, I have the urge to reread The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.