The teacher passes back the last graded papers, and the students wait patiently for their grades. A student on the first row is the first to receive his paper. As he looks at his paper, the smile disappears from his face, on his paper there are a lot of red pen marks. It does not matter if the comments are positive or negative, all he can focus is on is the red pen markings. Thoughts of failure invade his mind as he analyzes his mistakes. Red pens should be banned from the classroom because it of the psychological and biological repercussions it can cause; and another ink color should be used instead.
Somewhere down the line, the color red was given a negative connotation. Red is used a lot for alerting the public; stop signs are red, exit signs are red, and danger signs are red as well. Over time the brain has developed a defense mechanism, to be on the alert in the presence of red. The “Journal of Experimental Social Education”, conducted an experiment that explored cognitive associations with the color red they found, “Red often carries the meaning of danger or negative event … undermine[s] performance on challenging intellectual task ” ( Lichtenfel 1273). Therefore when students see the red ink corrections, their brains is alerting them that they did something wrong within in their papers. Even though the comments might be positive, the student still feels a sense of failure because the comments are written in red ink and their brain is sending subconscious messages (Elliot 156). Although the association of the red ink failure can be linked to the brain’s defense mechanism, students can also make the linkage through social learning.
Children can be fast learners and they learn a lot from their social environment, especially in school. At a young age the writing essays in introduced in later years of elementary school, around the third and fourth grade. The first writing assignment sets precedence, for all future writing assignments. Teachers model their students in positive and negative ways (Vosniadou). If the teacher grades the first writing assignment harshly in red ink, the students will not forget. Students will begin to associate the red ink with failure, because that is what the teacher has modeled for them (Elliot 156). Also teachers have the tendency to grade harder with a red pen in hand and it is not always intentional. However, teachers learn from their social environment as well and grading harshly with a red pen has become the norm. Children also learn though their social environment that red pen marks can equal failure.
Failure is hard concept for children to understand, and for even some adults. To avoid failure, a paper filled with red pen marks, students will work to please their teachers. The tendency is the more pen marks the student has the lower the grade (Rutchick 704). Students are motivated to do well on papers to escape the stigmas attached to red pen marks, which are worthless, stupid, and shame. There is...