4.04.2005

pedagogical note

there's an article on cnn.com about something that i've argued with many of my colleagues about. the article is about how some educators have stopped using red ink to grade papers. the rationale of course is that the color red is too negative, and that educators should use a color that is less associated with negativity and that color of choice that has emerged is purple.

this is...how can i put it lightly... COMPLETE HORSESHIT. seriously, think about what the teachers are doing, they are saying, "yes, certain colors do have intrinsic properties that are real and valid". in other words, you can tell what someone means by some physical phenomenon that is seemingly completely unrelated to the substantive phenomenon. whenever one of my colleagues feeds me this b.s., i like to tell them, "you know what you're right. we should also stop using black people for anything since black is affiliated with evil." they'll argue that it's different, but it's the same goddammed thing. people are inbueing colors with natural properties that are completely socially constructed. the same way that racists inbue skin phenotype with natural properties that are completely socially constructed.

because of this, i intentionally use a red pen whenever i have to grade something. if a student has a problem with red, i figure that the problem is with the student and not with the color red. should i also stop wearing red shirts to class because of the negativity associated with it? the other more rational reason, the reason why i'm sure that red was used in the first place, was that students could more easily locate the feedback that the educator has for them. since most assignments are done in black or blue ink, if your comments are in black or blue it will be harder for the student to find.

one final thing for my argument for red ink in grading. i don't necessarily disagree with the idea that red ink can be translated as being more negative by students. i know what it's like to get a paper that looks like someone slit their wrists over it. social processes are complicated, and one thing we know for sure is that over time, people can be convinced that a socially constructed phenomenon is a real one. i'm all for being more positive in my pedagogical style, but at the same time, most of the time, i am being negative about the quality of the student's work while using red ink. i do think we've become too sensitive about how we educate and treat children as if they're eggs with fragile little psyches that need to be protected at all times (obviously, the academic discipline of psychology is responsible for this). like anabolic steroids, if used correctly, a little red ink and negative feedback can induce the desired result of students learning and taking responsiblity for their actions. what i'm saying is that yes, sometimes trying your best isn't good enough. the point of teaching is for students to master concepts and apply them, not to make them feel better about themselves.

4 comments:

Erik said...

Uh, asshat, it's spelled "psyches" and I really wish I could have put that in bright red.

Bob said...

huh...i don't know what you're talking about...it looks spelled correctly to me. ahh the magic of technology...

Erik said...

Geez - first of all, you've got it with a possessive: psyche's. The phrase calls for a plural, not a possessive. "...as if they're eggs with fragile little psyche's..." Secondly, you had it spelled "pschye's" at first.

And, finally, I wouldn't be doing this if you weren't making fun of correcting papers in purple ink and if this hadn't happened.

Bob said...

ha ha, still can't prove anything. just like they can't in the michael jackson case.

and even worse, just cuz i make typos doesn't mean we should grade papers in purple.