In some school districts, teachers are asked to refrain from grading in red ink due to concerns that the color could be perceived as negative, intense, or stressful. Many campaigns to strike red ink from examinations and papers have been led by parents, reacting to concerns stirred up by the publication of papers exploring human reactions to colors such as red. Others have been initiated by administrators who want their schools to be as child-friendly as possible.
Grading in red ink is an ancient and time-honored tradition. Since at least the 1700s, the color red has been used to mark corrections on academic papers, primarily because it stands out so well from the classic black or blue inks used for writing. Comments and editorial markings in red show up very strongly against a wide variety of backgrounds as well, which means that they will be easy to see and address.
However, some people feel that grading in red ink carries a great deal of negativity. Primarily, it is perceived as stressful, often for the very same reason which makes red ink a great marking color: because the ink seems to scream. Red is also a very emotionally charged color in many cultures, and in some studies, it has been shown to elevate levels of stress, tension, or emotional intensity. When teachers are asked not to use red ink, these studies are often cited, with administrators and parents suggesting that high stress levels may impede learning.
Red ink also appears to raise self-consciousness, and some people feel that it could contribute to poor self esteem, especially in the case of students who are struggling in school. Because red ink is so bold and distinctive, when a student receives a paper covered in red ink, his or her classmates can easily see it, and this may spark derisive commentary or mockery which could make the student feel bad, thereby increasing anxiety about academic performance.
Instead of grading in red ink, some teachers are choosing purple, which is viewed as a more positive, neutral color. Some teachers turn to green or hot pink as well, relying on these colors to stand out from the paper without seeming so aggressive.
Some teachers and administrators feel that the controversy about grading in red ink is a bit overblown, arguing that red ink is the most suitable for marking corrections and comments, and suggesting that stress has always been part of the academic experience. At the same time, there are educators who question the practice of teacher-editing a student's work entirely. These folks claim that it is not the red ink as much as the disrespect of scribbling on a student's hard work that is problematic.