No more red ink!

teachers can no longer use red ink for grading

I don’t even have words for how ridiculous this is. I’ve been increasingly disturbed by how “sensitive” kids today (really their parents) are, but this pushes it over the line. How are these kids going to survive in the real world if they can’t (or are told that they can’t) handle red ink on their exams???

According to one parent, red ink is too “stressful”. WTF?

And when this became an issue, why didn’t the school administrators grow a spine and stand up to the parents? What the hell is wrong with these people?

FTR, the color of choice is now purple.

Why don’t you try and think of some, then? And then organize them into sentences and paragraphs? It would make for a much more entertaining rant. :stuck_out_tongue:

Purple? PURPLE? The color of royalty?

So now it’s not a correction, it’s an edict from on-high?

Don’t you realize what this will do to little Britainee’s self-esteem?

You’ll hear from my lawyers, you monarchist bastards.

Hello and good to meet you, Red Stilettos. Thanks for the sentences and paragraphs. This is a good companion, perhaps, to Ivylass’ thread on the subject, found here: My favorite quote from the article you cited is this:

"You could hold up a paper that says ‘Great work!’ and it won’t even matter if it’s written in red," said Joseph Foriska, principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh.

I’d imagine so, if you stipulate that no one who sees it can read. Which may be the case if this is how educators are spending their time.

I wonder if anyone was brave enough to suggest that neither the color red nor any other is inherently stressful, that’s it’s only a matter of association, and all they’re accomplishing is to transfer these associations to a new color. Eventually it will become clear, and then all criticisms of a student’s work will be written in invisible ink, so that no possible stress will ensue from the incremental failing of the fourth grade. For the same reason, grades themselves, whether for the individual assignment or for the entire school year, will be kept completely confidential, so that not even the students and their parents will know. Pressure at home can be the greatest source of stress, after all. To even hint at a reason for someone to work harder, study longer, or learn more is obsolete in a world in which people can contribute to society merely by choosing or condemning the colors in which others work.

That said, I must confess that I myself have an ingrained suspicion of the color red, dating back to a time in my life when I pursued a pair of red stilletos around (contents included, intact, and gorgeous) for more than a year, with stunningly bad results. The red ink that appeared on my college work at the same time was a drop in the bucket in comparison.

I take it you’ve seen current educational research and aren’t simply reacting to the fact that they-did-it-when-I-was-in-school-and-by-Og-it-was-good-enough-for-me!

Not using red ink is actually a rather good idea, as writing is process and not product based. Good writing is a verb phrase, not a noun phrase. Likewise, traditional instruction in grammar does more harm than good. Or how about how the most effective paradigm is not a deficit based one, but strength based? Or…

The fact of the matter is, children don’t learn as well when they’re in an adversarial relationship with an authority figure. Anything we can do as teachers to make them feel more secure and to meet us half way is a very good thing.

As for red being just as good as any other color, read up on current research. Red is most often described as a ‘hot’ color, as opposed to others which are described as ‘cool’. Believe it or not, teachers have peer reviewed journals and conduct research n’ everything.

Hey, I don’t care how the kids learn grammar just so long as they learn it before I or my colleagues need to deal with them in college or university. In that venue writing is certainly a product and not a process. If that product is substandard then the students are going to see a sea of red ink (currently it is only a suggestion that T.A.s use other than red, not an edict), or green ink, or blue ink.

Likewise, the litle darlings will need to be able to write a decent cover letter in order to find any sort of job in the real world, and must be able to make a good impression on a potential employer.

I use green because I can tell at a glance if a student has a question about marking, whether or not I was the one who marked that section. It is a convenience to me.

I think that we can take the sensitivity route way too far and banning red ink is edging very close to that line. It is up to the parents to explain that critique of work submitted is not a critique on the child’s character or an assault on the child’s worth as a human being. It is a teacher’s job to instruct the child in what he/she/it needs to know in order to fit into the world, and that means literacy and numeracy.


FinnAgain, you’re a great guy and I love reading what you have to say, but even if good writing is a verb phrase rather than a noun phrase, to say nothing of mathematics, history, geography and any multiple-choice test on any subject whatever that might inadvertantly be completed, turned in, and graded, eventually a child’s grades might somehow be associated with the color in which they’re written. If blue or black or purple or in another decade red happens to be the color in which critiques are written, then those kids who get the good grades will associate positive feelings with that color and those who don’t will feel differently. My A’s, and my kids’ A’s, came/come in the same shade as my/their B’s, F’s and all the other teachers’ marks that have been made for many years, and we generally love the color red. At least, the kids still are not rebellious toward stop signs or fearful of Santa Claus. Perhaps it isn’t the color that stings so much as the letter itself: shall we abolish the alphabet? Colors, like any other cue, only have associations based on past experience. I’ll admit that poor-grade papers may have more red ink on them, but if there’s a decent study linking students’ self-esteem with the amount of a certain color they seeon their school assignments, I’d love to see you show it instead of hinting at it. Give me a link, or even a name.

I think that you have a stong point in saying that teachers are often forced unwillingly into an adversarial relationship with students and parents, and that this situation must change . I doubt if the color red (as opposed to the grades they represent) is inherent in this relationship, though. I might support, say, a non-grade based first three years of public education, open to anyone who is, say, toilet-trained, where promotion is based on measurable ability but no record, grades or stigma is attached to non-promotion. What do you think?

Disclaimer: I just attended a ceremony in which my 11 year old daughter, who cannot spell her way through a simple letter, received honors while my son, who can read and write at about a college sophomore’s level, did not. I place only a little value in elementary school teachers’ assessments of their charges, no matter in what color they appear. I’d even go so far as to say that education is less a matter for theoretical research than it is a matter of practical application. So some “professionals” should put down the pencils and go to it.

So you’re aware that prescriptive grammars do not reflect natural grammar? That most of our conventions are based on millenia old conventions in latin which do not apply to our language? That in many cases ‘correct’ grammar is a subjective perception?

Unless you’re not allowing students to create drafts and revise their work prior to handing it it, it’s most certainly process not product based.

Recent research into freshman composition courses shows that the grammatical errors which most frequently drew the strongest reaction were also those which are nearly impossible to change. Food for thought.

Agreed, but the best method for training them isn’t a factory-paradigm system.

Do you have pedagogical research to back up your position? Because everything I’ve read suggests exactly the opposite.

It’s up to the teachers to create an enviornment in the classroomwhich facilitates learning. It’s up to teachers to adopt a strengh based assesment and not a deficit based assesment. Again, almost all the research supports this position.

Which mode of literacy? Functional literacy? Societal literacy? This is not a trivial question.

No, I haven’t seen any research looking specifically at the use of red ink. If you have, I would be interested to read it.

I agree that the best way to teach and to learn is in a non-adversarial atmosphere. However, I don’t think teachers are choosing red ink to stress the students. Personally, I use red ink to grade because it stands out from the student’s writing. That way I can make minor changes within the text and know that the student stands a good chance of finding it.

The King of Soup explained the problem quite well. Red is stressful because we’ve made it so: stop signs, red lights, metaphorical red tape, being in the red, etc. If we stop teachers from using red, whatever color they replace it with will gain this negative association.

In the grander scheme of things, I don’t think this debate does anything for the students. Do you really want kids to get the idea that their egos are so fragile that the color of a critique can push them over the edge? If we are teaching them what they’ll need to make it as an adult, then we need to teach them to sort the wheat from the chaff. What they need to focus on is the comment; the color shouldn’t matter.

I tend to grade in red because that’s the color that stands out against the blue or black ink that the kids typically use to write their assignments. It’s not the only color I use, however - today I graded with a fat, purple marker.

I don’t think I’ve yet traumatized any kids, but then again, I’m only a student teacher.

If the work I receive is not written according the standard conventions I was, and I presume you were, taught and the writing is ambiguous, that is not work that will receive full marks. Science is not only about discovery, it is about communicating the results or findings. I mark in science courses. If you cannot clearly explain what you have found, you are not fulfilling the assignment.

As far as my own training is concerned, I was not given a formally prescribed grammar. I was corrected when my writing or speaking fell short of what was standard. I picked up the rest by reading a lot of well written material and some not so well written material. The rules I was “taught”, either by teachers or as absorbed by reading exist to ensure clarity of communication. As I stated earlier, if work submitted is ambiguous or unclear, it is poor writing and will not be spared the red (or green) pen.

I don’t care if the students rewrite and revise their work before they turn it in. Actually that is not true. I encourage the students to ask someone to proofread their work. I ask them to read it aloud before submitting their final copy. What I don’t do is accept or critique earlier stages of their work. I see the end product. The memo an employee sends to his or her boss is likely not going to be corrected for style and content and returned to the employee for revision. Hopefully, the memo is the final product, not an intermediate stage in the process of producing a memo. I don’t know what definition you use, but the end stage of a process seems to be the definition of “product” to me, and that is what I base my evaluations on.

I don’t understand this. Are you saying the that bad grammatical habits are so ingrained they cannot be trained out? Are you saying we should not point them out and say: “this is unclear or incorrect or is an awkward construction, here is how you may want to write this in the future”. Are you saying that the errors are so egregious that they cannot be corrected without an extensive rewrite? I do not understand what you mean by “[some] grammatical errors … are nearly impossible to change.”

I’m not sure that we have even tried the factory product paradigm. I have seen research that shows that people in general will perform to expectations. If you tell a teacher that you are going to give them the best and the brightest kids in that grade level, the teacher will expect them to be the best and brightest kids. That expectation, in turn, will result in higher performance out of the students (who, in reality, have, in the past, tested as a normal distribution of students). We should expect a minimum standard of performance that is based on knowledge and skills demonstrated by the students. We should not pass students who haven’t quite got it up to snuff.

I want standardized testing to happen before the kids are sent out into the world. This is the minimum of what you expect a factory to do: turn out a product that conforms to minimum specifications. The most efficient factories don’t throw out those products that don’t make it up to specs, they re-work them until they pass or they divert them to a different stream. I don’t think everyone is academically inclined or apt. I don’t think that as a university graduate I’m any more valuable to society (in fact the pure academic is superfluous as far as contributions to the GDP are concerned) than a plumber or mechanic. If we look at the pay scales, quite often society agrees with me.

The parents I know want to know how their children are doing and what areas need improvement. When my step-sister went through school there was no indication where she stood in relation to what was expected at grade level. We had no idea whether she was on track to have the necessary skill set to succeed later, what areas she could use more help with at home.

If the factory paradigm doesn’t work for you, can you tell me what model you advocate and explain the differences from the factory model?

I don’t think that teachers should go out of their way to hurt a student’s feelings. But I also don’t think that a teacher should insulate the students from all of reality. Frankly, when I mark I want to make sure my marking colour contrasts clearly with the student’s writing colour, I’ve had very few students write in red ink. I’d be interested in reading any studies you could provide about colour-stress relationships. I’d also be interested in seeing if the same negative associations can be built into this new generation by having all comments written in purple. Will we have a generation of parents in 20 years advocating a less confrontational colour than purple when we evaluate their children?

This appear to be perpendicular to what I wrote:

A proper critique is an assessment of a work’s merits and demerits, it extolls the strengths and exposes the weaknesses. You get faster results when you say “I like this, this, and that. This, however is not the correct way to do this. Try this instead.” If you omit that last two sentences it will take longer to learn the correct way. It is human nature (whether learned or innate) to focus on the negative. It is up to the teacher to critique and evaluate progress and pass on knowledge (and yes, ensure that the envirnment is conducive to learning). The teacher should focus on the student’s successes (positive reinforcement) and point out the shortcomings (with less emphasis, I agree). To do either exclusively is not efficient.

When I mark: I look for specific things. If they are all present, then the student receives the marks. If they are missing elements, they have not fulfilled the assignment and they don’t receive full marks. I understand this to mean I mark on a strength based assessment?

To my mind, if you cannot read a “Harry Potter” book when you graduate, then the system has completely failed you. If you cannot make change for a dollar or balance your chequebook, you need to go back to grade three. If you cannot write a concise and topical letter (either a covering letter, a business letter, or a thank you letter to your Aunt Linda for the sweater you received at Christmas) you are not literate. If you cannot express yourself clearly either in written or spoken prose you have not achieved a level of literacy you should have as an adult member of society. I do not require that you do so at all times, merely that you have that set of skills.

Oh, and some sense of history and a second language would be nice, but not an absolute necessity.


A good point. I suppose in disciplines which have a definite right and wrong answer, the use of red ink might be appropriate. But the color spectrum does have pre-packaged implications regardless of how it’s used, although that can indeed modify things somewhat.

I think it’s more an issue of seeing a paper returned with red all over it. I’d wager that a grade at the top of the paper wouldn’t have quite the same impact.

Yes :smiley:

There also seems to be an inherent assocation of colors with temperature. Green and blue are ‘cool’ colors, for instance.
As for cites, it’s hard to do since the feds have fucked ERIC over pretty damn hard. I don’t have the hardcopies anymore, but here’s one cite, maybe you can find a hardcopy at your local library?

Massacre by Red Ink. Robert L. Wilson. The Journal of Experiential Education Volume 10, Number 3. (Fall, 1987)

Perhaps not the color red in isolation, but getting a paper back swimming in red ink is not necessarily a good thing. If you’d like I can also point you to articles on varying methods for teachers to give feedback and the importance of not looking for mistakes and instead working with children on flow/style.

Difficult situation.
Research has shown that the track a student is placed in often becomes semi-prophetic. Teachers teach differently to ‘low ability’ groups than ‘high ability’ groups, and someone tracked into a low group in first grade has very little chance of getting out of it any time during their early education. From what I’ve seen, there are no easy answers on this front as of yet.

I would, however, support doing away with grades in the humanities and replacing them with teacher evaluations.

Both of your children are in elementary school? I’d also suggest that there are a lot of bad teachers out there, but there are some good ones.

It’s very hard to know how the practical application should go without doing the research. (Although I’d agree that some educational researchers should spend more time actually teaching). For instance, about 100 years worth of research now tells us that all of our methods of instructing grammar were less than useless, they often hurt students’ writing. We wouldn’t have discovered this if we didn’t do the research.

There have been some studies dealing specifically with red ink, however since the feds have gutted ERIC I’m not able to get any right now. I’ll see if the UT library has any physical copies.
There is, however, enough current research dealing with teacher atittudes and color perception that one shoudl be able to piece this together on their own.

Well of course that’s not why they choose it, it’s just an unintended consequence.

Actually, here’s a non-education based cite for this one. Red is a ‘hot’ color, and in this case the semantic structure works backwards from the category, rather than vice versa. If we use, for instance, green ink, children won’t suddenly think that fire, stop signs, etc… are green.

It’s not about egos being ‘so fragile’, it’s about creating the right enviornment in a classroom that every contribution is valued and teachers never focus on what a student cannot do. Instead we are instructed to approach the sitaution from a strength-based paradigm.

But medium affects message. That’s part of what we teach them, after all.

A few more cites: unfortunately I can’t get many of them. When the Bush adminstration took over and instituted the NCLBA, they gutted ERIC’s funding. Having the (unintended?) consequence of making academic research much harder. There are some mirror sites, but it’s somewhat hard to know what’s on which one. If anybody else finds some of these articles on other sites, lemme know.

a book on grading, etc…

Not exactly research, but here’s Penn State’s policy.

Effects of red ink on L2 students. "Red ink markings are often misinterpreted, and students then begin to doubt their linguistic abilities because they do not feel that they have been positively rewarded "

Not exactly on target, but it discusses how for adult learners getting rid of red ink helps to reduce text anxiety

Ed.Net Briefs

All in all, I don’t think it’s a major problem. And there are many things I’d tackle before getting red pens out of the classrooms. But, myself, I use green.

Oh, and, thanks King of Soup, That was very nice of you to say.
I’m glad that you like reading what I write. But I must protest, I am not a great guy. Merely somewhat-wonderful. :wink:

Well, I hope the sensitive coddled little fuckers don’t ever pass thru my office as a co-op or an intern. I mark up documents and drawings all day long in red ink. And in fact, MIL-STD-100 governing acceptable practices for preparation and interpretation of engineering drawings requires it. Red is reserved to the checker and means wrong; other colors have other specific meanings.

I agree with the logic for the latter, not the former. If it hinders flow/semantic content, it’s a mistake. If it violates arbitrary conventions, it is not. That doesn’t mean students should be unaware of their target audience, however.

Or, as Churchill wrote:
"Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put!"

A good point. And judging by the science majors’ papers I’ve read, they need all the help they can get! :wink:

Gotta take issue with this… although to be fair I’m not sure what rules, exactly, you’re talking about. Let’s take, for example, splitting an infinitive. Under the Rules of Grammar [sup]tm[/sup], you’re not allowed to say something like, oh… “To boldy go…” And yet, it’s pefectly clear and coherent. The reason we’re not allowed to is because you physically can’t split an infinitive in Latin. This seems like a piss poor reason to restrict the English language, however.

I agree without reservation.
But that has much more to do with flow and semantics than grammar.

Yes, from your perspective all you get is product. But from the perspective of a writer, all there is, is process.

True, but virtually any text ever created can still be edited, made tighter, snappier, etc… there comes a point where you need to stop the process and declare that it’s finished.

If your job was to teach English rather than science, you’d have to evaluate not just the final product, but how a student got there. You’d also have to help them get to a final product.

Partially… it’s also arbitrary sometimes. For instance, let’s take sentence fragments. “When he was last here.” is, if you’re marking purely on grammar, incorrect. But not in dialogue.
“When did he leave his wallet here?”
“When he was last here.”

Other habits are marks of dialects, and students often react somewhat violently when we try to strip them of their cultural heritage. The way to get around this, in my understanding, is not to slam their papper with a sea of red ink, but to explain the functions of voice and craft, and the importance of writing for an audience. The distinction is, I believe, important.

No, clarity and rhythm are important and somewhat-objective. Prescriptive grammar, on the other hand, is not.

I’ll find the data of the study, it actually just came up in class on monday. I’m not saying that it can’t be corrected, simply that many of our pet peeves are nothing more than that. Also, to be fair, much of the information I get is filtered through Randy Bomer, so that’s the paradigm I’m coming from.

In a large percent of freshman comp students, even with training and revision, they could not remove comma splices or fused sentences, for example.

Sure we have. That’s exactly the place NCLB is coming from. Exactly the wrong place, I might add.

There’s a difference. All kids can learn, and are able to acquire the semantic reactions of ‘geniuses’. That’s not in debate. But if I assume my students can, for instance, learn all about quantum mechanics in a week or decipher Finnegans Wake in a weekend… well… I’ll be pushing them too hard. Yes, optimism does great things, but it’s not a panacea.

This is, I believe, more because teaching down to children limits them. And teachign to them as if they’re brilliant allows them to be challenged and stimulated.


There is no causal relationship and not even a good degree or correlation between test scores and academic achievement. Tests only test how good you are at taking that particular test. In most circumstances at least. One of the absolute worst things you can do for children is high stakes testing. All the recent research on the NCLBA confirms this.

And this is the problem with treating schools like factories. Children are not raw materials, and teachers are not machines.

Possibly, but as your example aluded to, students who are tracked in lower groups will do poorly, even if they have a higher potential.

I don’t know exactly what you mean by that, but I do believe that all children can learn, and indeed have a natural affinity for learning.

Perhaps. But a liberal arts degree should (and used to) mean that it’s owner was well versed in the world. Not so much anymore.

There is a huge problem with assigning things to ‘grade level’. Take, for instance, “readability formulas”. They list the NY Times at around, oh, fourth grade IIRC. However, they leave out the fact that tremendous background knowledge is required. There’s no real need to rank students in competition with each other, as long as you can tell their parents if individuals students are working up to potential.

But you could have gotten that information without knowing a lick about what her classmates could do.

Sure. Teachers would work on improving students’ writing and grade on improvement, rather than ultimate quality of the final product. High stakes testing would be done away with in favor of individual evaluations performed for every student by their teachers. There are other differences as well, but my specialty is in curriculum and instruction, not curriculum design. I’ll ask a buddy of mine what other areas I’m overlooking.

Insulate them from reality? No. Provide the most fertile ground for growth and to instill a love of learning rather than fear of failure? Yes.

Sure, I’m really busy with classes but I’ll try to dig some more up.

Possible, but I doubt it, as purple is a ‘cool’ color.

I don’t grok the spatial metaphor.
My point was that it’s not a parent’s job to set the tone in my classroom, it’s my job. Although of course I can’t function as effectively without parental involvement.

Perhaps I was unclear. A strengh based paradigm looks at what a student can do and nurtures that, rather than writing them off as a failure based on what they cannot do.

Actually, you get even faster results if you say “This is good because of X, Y, Z, and that doesn’t work because of A, B, C…” but I admit that’s a somewhat minor quibble. I’d also point out, it’s quite porrible to rephrase the “I don’t like …” into something positive “I see what you’re trying to do with A, B, C, and I like where it’s going, but I think there’s a problem with it getting there. How can we approach this problem from a different angle?”

Agreed. Perhaps we just differ on our view of how exactly the negative should be pointed out?

No… from what I understand this is a standards based assesment, much like how I had to learn to write while studying for the AP bio exam.

Or you (and your parents) have completely failed the system. This is another problem with the factory paradigm. Sometimes, no matter how talented, dedicated, passionate a teacher is, their students will not meet them half way.

Agreed, this is functional literacy, and it is of the utmost importance.

Not true. There are numerous facets of literacy, and you are describing societal literacy. True, you are unlikely to achieve any social status without it, but functional literacy is indeed literacy.

This is, again, societal literacy. And to be honest, not all people need it. Although yes, with the increasing degree to which communications via the 'net are required, it is becoming functional literacy.

I’d like to see all my students achieve high levels of societal literacy too, it means they’ll be able to get better jobs. But I also realize that it’s not, necessarily for everybody. Functional literacy, on the other hand, is absolutely essential.

Oh, and some sense of history and a second language would be nice, but not an absolute necessity.


I previewed too!
(Shows you what difficultues a dyslexic dysgraphic has to up with put! :wink: )

Personally I feel that if students get out of highschool without a sense of history, and without the ability to be a good citizen, we’ve failed in part of our job as educators.

Meh. The best teacher I had (for four years of Spanish in high school) used just about every color in the rainbow. We’d get papers back and they’d be downright rainbow-esque, with reds and purples and greens and blues and oranges.

One of the other great teachers I had used red, exclusively.

Doesn’t matter - either way, that very first glance at the oh-so-colorful paper is going to make your heart sink. If you actually read the comments, then, you discover that not everything is telling you that you suck.

I wonder if anyone actually, y’know, talked to the students about whether or not it ink effected their ego…

On one hand, I agree with you. I get irritated by arguments that center around the notion that nothing should ever change, and this constant carping about “Oh my God, they’re trying to help children’s self-esteem and it’s making my little world fall apart around me” bugs me.

On the other hand, parents demanded this. It was not the result of educational research.

I don’t have much sympathy for the notion that we’re just trying to get the little darlings to express themselves (mostly because I think most people express themselves far too much as it is.) I have the fortune of a natural flair for writing (though I’d ask that you not judge me too harshly by what I do here. :slight_smile: I don’t put nearly as much effort into my postings here as my essays for school) but most people my age just don’t seem competent to write at the level that I think they ought to. Most professions involve at least some writing, and people really should be able to do it, and moreso they should know the basic grammar and orthographic conventions underlying formal writing. That sort of thing is not generally effectively learned through osmosis.

I particularly regret this approach in my language classes; while my Spanish professors compliment me on my writing, I’m simply not getting the basic writing style and grammar advice I’d like to most of the time. I’m fortunate in that I have a professor now who does so (using a pencil, incidentally :)). I think having the opportunity to see ones errors marked precisely is valuable.

Certainly. That’s why we took away the paddles, and I think it’s very important that children be given useful, constructive feedback. But hearing that you’ve made a mistake doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Excessive focus on “not criticizing” misses the boat - children should be made to understand that a criticism of a writing assignment (especially a minor grammatical point) isn’t a judgment of them personally. Little Caileigh and little DaKohda ought to have actual self-esteem and thus be able to recognize that a wrong mark on a homework assignment shouldn’t impact on their self-conception.

“Red is a hot color” is not the result of current research, dear. I suspect it’s a cultural definition, though I’m not certain - but it definitely has different connotations in different cultures. Thus, if the traditional red pen becomes the traditional green pen, little Brittaknee is just going to associate green marks with disapproval.

Besides, while it’s not really something “provable”, everything I’ve read about education and trends in teaching young children suggests that it’s one of the most heavily superstition-laden, fad-oriented professions around. There most certainly is real research done - it just doesn’t impact what becomes popular in classrooms.

Ahh! A recognition that prescriptive grammar is not the product of Almighty God’s holy writ! A victory!

However, you must be aware of certain things. Many people simply don’t write well, both for grammatical and stylistic reasons. In fact, I know plenty of people who don’t write as well as they can speak - reflecting, thus, not a problem with language or an “unorthodox” grammar, but simply inadequate training when it comes to writing.

This “prescriptive grammar is unjustifiable” maxim does not apply well to writing. Writing is not a natural act; while speech is the product of special hardware in the brain and an internalizing of the grammar underlying the language they’re exposed to, writing is a mechanism for recording language. This language is not nearly so much the result of internal mechanisms, but rather its own entity, created by reading and writing. It’s not the same as speech, and it’s not really analogous. (For some evidence of it, compare the way people write to the way they talk. Writing really doesn’t match speech very well at all.)

Further, children ought to be fluent in the standard dialect, both in spoken and written forms. As I’ve explained, writing lacks the same wiring in the brain, so it must be trained deliberately, and probably with correction along the way. Either way, though, children ought to leave school capable of applying the principles of prescriptive grammar (to a point. We can abandon the nonsense about splitting infinitives and so forth.) The standard dialect is the language of success, and a student’s entry into the professional, middle-class world depends in part upon the ability to speak in the language of that world. It’s doing children a grave disservice not to teach them how to write, and write properly.

Besides, while some prescriptive grammar is indeed based upon Latin, those particular rules tend to be trotted out just to illustrate the absurdity of it. In most cases, prescription is really just the teaching of the standard dialect (of whatever language is used), and the rules of prescriptive grammar are largely just the rules of the standard dialect (and, in particular, rules that define how it differs from other variants, such as the one on double negatives in English.)

I’m not sure I understand this. Do you mean that students in freshman composition classes tend to make mistakes over and over, and have trouble fixing them? Of course they do. If they don’t learn the difference between “who’s” and “whose” early on, it’ll be tougher to correct. That doesn’t mean that a college graduate shouldn’t know when to use which.

Well, if we’re gonna start getting into fact rather than just shouting our opinions ever louder :slight_smile: then I’m gonna have to ask you for a cite first, since as the article points out, this was a parental effort, not one springing out of the research of the education community.

I say aim high, and have the little bastards eventually learn to read books.

Call me crazy, but I think that’s one of literacy’s big selling points. Granted, literature ain’t gonna catch on with everyone, but they at least oughta get forced to read Hamlet in high school. I mean, it’s fucking tradition, it is!

One only need note the different cultural values attached to red to see that it is indeed a psychological issue, not an inherent hardware issue. Off the top of my head, in China, red is the color of luck, of success - it is the most auspicious color, thus its prominence in homes and businesses. Clearly it’s a matter of our learned reactions to the colors. Thus, if teachers all switched to sea-foam, students would have negative reactions to that. (If, indeed, it’s true that students are somehow psychologically conditioned to associate colors and grades.)

Oh dear, just what the humanities need: something else to give across the notion that they’re not “real” classes.
Anyway, in the end, I think the only thing sillier than parents fussing about the color ink is used to give their children overinflated grades is people fussing about the parents’ fussing. (So then with my fussing over people’s fussing over these parents’ fussing . . . :D)

I don’t care if the ink is red, purple, or some other color that’s easily distinguished from the rest of the paper. I do care that students at some point learn to accept and deal with criticism of their work.

I’ve had work returned by my boss with so much red ink that the darn paper looks like she cut her finger in half while cutting up a coconut while reviewing it! Learning to deal with that is an important skill. If I fell apart because my paper was hemorrhaging red ink, I’d be a quivering puddle of jello on the floor of my cube. The janitors wouldn’t appreciate that!