Red Ink In The Classroom?

Everyone of a certain generation knows what red ink on a school paper means. Wrong answers. But kids in the future might not recognize red ink as a teacher’s way of drawing attention to mistakes.

red cross and student

The brightly colored marks have been falling out of favor the last few years, with some schools in the UK even doing away with red ink altogether in favor of shades a little less…aggressive?

The idea seems to be that red ink sends a negative message that undercuts kids’ self-confidence. A study from the US even found that the use of red ink affected the teacher-student relationhip.

Study co-author Richard Dukes, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado told ABC News that “it appears the use of a red pen equates in the student’s mind to shouting in the same way as writing in all capitals,” according to the network.

Schools in the UK have taken the red ink debate to heart. Schools that have ordered teachers to switch from red to more emotion-neutral inks like green include:

Online retailors do a lot of business with UK schools. Each fall, they see a decline in the number of red ink pens ordered and a dramatic increase in the number of other colors, including green and purple.

Schools in the US have been shifting away from red ink for more than 10 years. In fact, back in 2004, pen makers began adding purple pens to their product ranges to accomodate schools in the US seeking alternatives to red ink, according to the Boston Globe.

The no-red-ink movement has caused a bit of consternation, particularly among conservatives who see it as political correctness run amok.

Joshua Riddle from the Young Conservatives in the US ranted about the Mounts Bay red ink decision(calling it another example of the “wussification of England”):

A red pen isn’t negative. Do you know what’s negative? Getting fired from your job and having to tell your family you aren’t making any money to provide for them. How about we start preparing kids and let them know the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and instill some work ethic in them?

The Telegraph’s Boarding School Beak tackled red ink a bit more tongue-in-cheek recently.

Most teachers would be lost without their red pens. In fact, it’s the first thing I reach for in the morning, before setting off to school. When faced with fifty or sixty essays to mark by “tomorrow first thing”, wielding that pen like an avenging weapon becomes one of the most satisfying parts of the job.

red ink correction
Photo: Alamy

For us, the whole red ink vs. green/purple/whatever debate seems a little blown out of proportion, regardless of which side you’re on. There are many issues about current education standards that are more worthy of discussion, such as the continuation of handwriting instruction. As long as students and teachers are still using ink, the color doesn’t worry us much.

(Although we do have to chuckle a bit every time some green ink goes out the door.)

However, we have to admit, this next item wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun if the ink were any other color.

It’s a poison pen letter that an English teacher received anonymously – painstakingly corrected in red ink for the student’s benefit.

(Warning: The letter contains naughty words.)

Poison Pen Letter Corrected in Red Ink
Must try harder: English teacher’s response to a nasty note from their student (Picture: Reddit)

Red ink may be falling out of favor in the classroom but did you know that there are some junior schools that make all their pupils use a fountain in year 5 and year 6. They believe that there are many benefits not only does using a fountain pen improves their handwriting but provides a significant benefit to the children’s self-respect.

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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