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Childhood scars seared in red ink

As everyone knows, many if not most of modern society's ills _ crime, violence, bigotry, budget deficits, traffic congestion, reality TV and the Lakers' demise _ can be traced directly to generations of schoolteachers correcting students' papers with red markers.

Maybe you didn't know this. But so deep were the wounds to tender young minds from red minus signs and oversized exclamation marks on homework errors, that these malefactors are still acting out their scars years later.

That's why it's so profoundly encouraging to hear, as this school year's first corrected quizzes are being handed back, that thousands of teachers are moving to more sensitive colors for their notations. Stationery stores report sales of purple pens especially are up.

. . . Recent media accounts quote purple teachers as saying red is too aggressive, over-the-top, arrogant, frightening, negative, harsh, scary, demoralizing and harmful to juvenile self-esteem. Some noted that blood and anger are red. So they switched to purple, which art students know is actually red and blue combined. Purple is gentler. Blue is also nice. And green.

Red teachers maintain that, in fact, they intend to call attention to mistakes. How else to correct and prevent poor work? They believe fragile egos will somehow survive red marks. Red also has the added benefit of preparing sloppy students for the meaning someday of an adult pink slip.