the concept of purple

“Is our children learning?” -George W. Or more appropriately, is our educators insane? Report cards no longer have A’s or F’s on them, schools are banning dodgeball and tag, and now teachers are going to use purple to grade papers instead of red, because red is ‘too frightening’.

“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.”

This is precisely why the public school monopoly is failing to educate children. Our 'educational establishment' has better things to do than teach. We are failing to educate our children simply because we have an educational establishment. Our 'educators' spend more time thinking about how a color might make a child feel rather than whether or not that child actually learns anything. Psychobabble is elevated and accepted as educational doctrine rather than the tried and true methods of a classical education.

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.

"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."

Honestly, I see a pattern here. My daughter started the second grade on Monday. Last year I was surprised by her first grade report cards. Uninformative and unintelligable just begins to describe them. It's as if they are purposely vague. Each section of the report card used a different scale. One part had numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4. Another part had letters, but not A, or b, or C, D, or F... No, it had letters like: F for fine, V for very good, G for great.

Wouldn't it be simpler, and more straightforward to use the tried and true A through F so that parents could understand how their child was doing in school rather than hiding that information? Perhaps it is more important for 'educators' to make sure parents are not offended just in case their child is not doing well in school. Perhaps teacher's unions are working to acheive their goal of zero accountability for educating the children they have responsibility for.

"I do not use red," said Robin Slipakoff, who teaches second and third grades at Mirror Lake Elementary School in Plantation, Fla. "Red has a negative connotation, and we want to promote self-confidence. I like purple. I use purple a lot."

Sheila Hanley, who teaches reading and writing to first- and second-graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Randolph, said: "Red is definitely a no-no. But I don't know if purple is in."

Hanley said a growing contingent of her colleagues is using purple. They prefer it to green and yellow because it provides more contrast to the black or blue ink students are asked to write in. And they prefer it to orange, which they think is too similar to red.

But aside from avoiding red, Hanley said she is not sure color matters much. At times, she uses sticky notes rather than writing on a child's paper. What's important, she said, is to focus on how an assignment can be improved rather than on what is wrong with it, she said.

Perhaps we should change the stop lights to purple as well because drivers might be intimidated by the bright red color meant to tell you to stop. And let's not make stopping mandatory while we're at it. It's just too black and white. Too right and wrong. Too aggressive a message. After all there are no absolutes.

At least one mother and one teacher understand what 'red' is supposed to mean:

Ruslan Nedoruban, who is entering seventh grade at his Belmont school, said red markings on his papers make him feel "uncomfortable."

His mother, Victoria Nedoruban, who is taking classes to improve her English, said she thinks papers should be corrected in red.

"I hate red," she said. "But because I hate it, I want to work harder to make sure there isn't any red on my papers."

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.' "

Posted by Eric Simonson at August 25, 2004 12:35 PM