We Live In A World Of Purple Pens

Rebecca starts at her new school today. She is extremely excited about this and last night was a bit like Christmas Eve in our house as she bounced around, getting ready for the big day. Yesterday, Fionnuala took her out to get the last bits and pieces she needed. The school had helpfully shared a list of what pupils required on its Facebook page. A very long and expensive list. My debit card has never known such frenetic activity.

Included on the list were pens. Each pupil was required to have blue, black and purple pens. Hang on a minute. Purple? I didn’t even know such a colour of pen existed. What happened to good, old fashioned red pens? Adam explained to us that the school no longer allowed red ink as this was regarded as too ‘negative’ a colour for marking homework. Instead teachers now did so with green pens and pupils responded to their grades in purple ink.

Once my jaw had bounced back off the floor I reverted to my old friend Google for confirmation of this nonsensical practice. And, lo and behold, Adam was right. Schools viewed the use of red ink as potentially harmful to a child’s fragile psyche. The poor, little lambs. The colour red was synonymous with harm and danger whereas green and purple were deemed more calming and neutral options.

Of course, we towed the line and purchased the purple pens. Apparently they are freely available at all good retailers. But what next? Purple traffic lights? Road signs? Will bulls now take offence if wrongly coloured rags are waved in their faces? I’m all for educating our kids in a safe and positive learning environment. I was bullied at school by teachers as well as pupils and know very well how a child’s fragile confidence can be damaged by those meant to bolster it.

But is this a step too far? Do we not need the colour red in our lives? Red signifies danger and acts as a warning sign. It guides us and allows us to avoid potential harm. Without it we are left exposed and more likely to stray off the straight and narrow path? We are humans and, as such, are infinitely capable of shooting ourselves in the foot. Sometimes we need alarm bells to ring and flashing lights to go off in our heads.

I know I do. If there is wrong decision to make, I will make it. I act on instinct, I don’t think and frequently put my foot in my mouth. I have an impulsive, addictive nature which, if left unchecked, would get me into all sorts of trouble. I don’t recognise the danger before it’s too late. I need the colour red in my life. Preferably in ten foot high letters and surrounded by wailing sirens and flashing lights. Purple fire engines are of no use to me.

This is why I need the right people around me. This is why I am always wary and cautious. The slightest prompt or thought can trigger me and quickly spiral out of control until it is too late and I have entered a whole new world of pain. I need honesty, transparency and accountability. I need people who will tell me how it is. Who will scream at me until they are red (not purple) in the face. I need the truth. Every single day.

Rebecca sets off on a new adventure today with a new school uniform, a new school bag and a new pencil case full of purple pens. Such is the changing world we live in. But when I arrive at work this morning and organise my desk I will be making sure that my trusty red pen sits front and centre. Old habits die hard and I’m too long in the tooth to change now. We may now live in a world of purple pens. But, I for one, still need the colour red in my life.

What are your thoughts on the purple pen debate?

Do you need the colour red in your life?

67 thoughts on “We Live In A World Of Purple Pens

Add yours

  1. It’s sad that instead of preparing us younguns to face the challenges of life they try and remove those smaller ‘practice’ challenges from our paths. If a student can’t face down red ink, imagine what they will think of an angry boss! Imagine what they will think when they’re actions, that should have been guarded against by ‘red ink moments’, are met with disastrous consequences. Like you, I’m all for a positive and non-tolerant of bullies learning environment, but to take away all a child’s adversity is to take away reality and dramatically hinder them from joining the world as a responsible and productive member of society. Next, they will tell us the school uniforms include giant plastic bubbles…somewhere we need to draw the line. We do not live in a world of rainbows and unicorn farts, we live in a world that is more often than not cruel, evil, and sickening. Instead of arming them with purple pens, let us arm our young people with weapons they can use in those moments: faith and truth!

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      1. Thanks for letting me rant a bit! This is a major problem here in the states too, even in college 😦 I hope that not all people in school these days are taken in by it. It reminds me of when Peter and Susan go to the Professor and he keeps saying, “What are they teaching kids in school these days?” All the while, trying to explain something that should have been logical to them 🙂 maybe it’s just apart of growing older, we’ll never understand why they continue to soften it up for the younger generations!

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  2. My daughter uses a red pen in some of her classes in middle school here in Ohio. U guess they didn’t get the memo. Red.stands out and says ” hey you made a mistake” thread purple says ” let’s go play.”

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  3. Wow. Just wow.

    I cannot decide which is worse: the idea that pointing out mistakes with green ink is somehow kinder than doing so with red or the accompanying demand that a child’s response to the corrections SHALT BE in no other color but purple.

    If nothing else your daughter is being taught to navigate and conform to a world of petty, self-absorbed beurocracy.

    The non-conformist jerk that lives within me would want to write a letter explaining that my child will not be forced to use ink that contains red, which is why her responses to teacher marks will be in gold glitter ink. My child would hate me but, . . . yeah.

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  4. I once had a high school teacher who would mark up everything in red even if it was positive. She was known for her detailed and critical eye and red pens she ran through quickly. Purple I would totally accept in that case. But I do see what you mean.

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  5. I am sure that blood is not red for no reason. So when it is outside the body when it is meant to be inside. You know something is wrong. You made me laugh with the comment about the bulls taking offence lol

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  6. Great that Rebecca is excited at going back to school! But I remember getting an assignment back covered in red pen, and I’d actually done well, it was just the teacher’s notes, and someone (I can’t remember who) stuck their head over my shoulder and said “Oh you got a lot of red pen.” So boo to red pen! 😉

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  7. I can sympathize with people’s objections to replacing red with green or purple pens. It can seem a bit unnecessary or extreme. I thought I would share my perspective.

    I was a middle and high school English teacher for sixteen years. I quickly discovered that a lot of students have serious writers block. One of the things that causes writers block is when teachers approach writing as though it is an all-or-nothing practice: either you are good at writing, or your not. In my experience, teachers who approach writing this way often write pretty caustic notes in red ink all over students papers.

    So, it is not that red the color is bad, per se. Rather, in the school environment, red ink has become associated with an all-or-nothing, perfectionistic and critical attitude towards writing and learning. In many contexts, red connotes anger or abrupt communication (e.g. “Stop!”)

    Students often find school, writing, and learning a scary and overwhelming experience. What they need is teachers who regularly communicate that making mistakes is okay, messing up is a part of the process, and that we can learn to do hard stuff like writing by trying things out and taking it one step at a time.

    Green and purple ink can be a helpful tool in communicating this philosophy because these colors often connote growth, wisdom, and adventure.

    Of course, there are times when we absolutely need the color red, and we need its strong connotation. Stop lights are a great example of this. In addition, red at Christmas certainly carries a connotation of festivity and lightheartedness.

    In addition, a teacher could certainly grade with purple and green pens in a harsh and critical way and use red ink in an encouraging and nurturing way.

    Having said that–if I grade papers by hand (instead of on a learning platform like Blackboard), I always grade with green, purple or black ink and never red–this is at the college level, too. I find that I have had pretty good success at helping students overcome writers block. It isn’t just the ink color I use–but that is part of it.

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  8. Oh, my goodness! What will they come up with next??? Eventually, children will come to associate negative things about purple (my favorite) and then they’ll come up with another color. How about sunny yellow?

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  9. I love using coloured ink for writing, except when filling out important paperwork. Pink, purple, and green are my favourites; however, I have never once considered them to be safer or more non-threatening than red ink. I use red ink a fair bit, too.

    My kids are no longer in school, and we’ve never encountered this level of ridiculousness. It wouldn’t bother me if a teacher wanted to correct student work in green ink, if the reason was simply that the teacher was fun and slightly rebellious. But I don’t really think that eliminating red ink is going to save children from feeling horrible about themselves. I feel there are more important things to focus on with greater impact than the colour of corrections and grades on school work.

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  10. Purple is literally the color of superfluidity. Ever heard of purple prose😜. It is a coddle-some world now and it concerns me with schools. My daughters school is very big on emotional education. Teaching empathy as well as STEM. And I think that’s amazing. And my kids? I don’t allow them to do a fraction of what I did as a child…so maybe I’m part of the problem. But I believe in a limit. But where is this limit? If red is too bold for the fragile ego then I’m at a loss. I know nothing.

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  11. Despite their intentions, correcting and evaluating work will always represent criticism: I am not good enough. The color purple, if used continuously, would turn into the new red and viewed as a negative practice. I appreciate that people are trying to recognize emotions and mental health, however their needs to be a discussion about the overall manner of critique, how to healthily promote growth and wellness without causing feelings of worthlessness. Essentially, the ability to critique but in the same sentence provide information about how the student did well and how to further enhance the skills the student had to further increase their performance.

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  12. I agree about red vs purple – my first thought is “really???”. After ranting and complaining ….yes, like you I would have gone out and bought the purple pens all the while shaking my head….. 🙂 My daughter started using purple and pink pens in high school is 32 today and still uses them…drives me crazy. Yes we are all getting old and cranky!! lol

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  13. Wow. Totally ridiculous. Red is my favorite color! I haven’t heard about this in my children’s school yet. They go to a catholic school so maybe that is why. They tend to have their own rules. Anyways, I need RED and my kids do too! In fact, if I see purple markings, I am going to write over it in RED. 😉

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  14. I love red ink. It told me where I went wrong and where I got it right. I love seeing good grades in red, my teacher’s signature in red. To me it was a sign completion success. Bad grades inspired me to work harder and the good ones too, if they were in red. For some reason I didn’t take papers marked in other colours as seriously. Red has a finality to it. Even now as an adult I buy black and red pens. I use the red when I need a dash of colour on my page, or when I really need to highlight something I’ll need in the future. Attention equals red. This concept reminds me of this Alternative Math short film ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw ) it irks me so.

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  15. Amen-Amein and Thanks so very much Brother in Christ-Messiah Jesus-Yeshua!! ❤ GOD Bless You and Your Family and Friends!!

    GOD BLESS ALL my Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus-Yeshua and Your Families and Friends!!

    My Favorite Colors are Purple, Blue and Pink!! I was born colored blind, So I can only see a few colors out of my Clear Left eye, as my right eye is Still blurry and hard too see out of!!!

    I am Pro-Israel-Yisrael / Pro-Christian and Jewish People who STAND with the Holy Land of Israel-Yisrael and our Judeo-Christian Nation United States of America / Pro-Zionism / PRO-LIFE / PRO-LIFE!!

    Our ONE True GOD’S LOVE 💕💜 is ETERNAL THROUGH HIS SON Christ-MESSIAH Jesus-Yeshua for Today and Everyday Forevermore!!

    I Love you all Everyone through Christ-MESSIAH Jesus-Yeshua, because HE LOVED 💜💕 EVERYONE FIRST!!

    Love 💕 Always and Shalom ( Peace ), YSIC \o/

    Kristi Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yay, Rebecca! Hope she has an excellent first day. And you have already heard about my red pen, dubbed “the angry pen” by my kids. But in actuality, I use it for both positive comments and corrections. I just like the color because it’s traditional, and I’m an old-school girl.

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  17. Purple is my favourite colour; I should get a purple pen!… but only for writing in my journal. As for school work; students had to have a black or blue fountain pen and teachers generally marked our work in red biro; it was then clear to see who wrote what and easy to spot corrections. I suppose getting an F marked in red is like a double-whammy, but then a helpful teacher would offer some words of constructive criticism. If A-grades were marked in green (or purple) then to repeatedly see poor grades marked in glaring red would surely be an issue for under-performing students.

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