Beware – The Aggressive Red Pen

By , Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008

Throw out the red pens – according to Queensland Health – they are too aggressive.


I heard this on the news tonight and thought how ridiculous.

TEACHERS are being warned to use bean bags to reduce student stress, organise “mind dumps” to clear kids’ thoughts and even stop using “aggressive” red pens.

In a controversial suite of tips that has divided psychologists, a Queensland Health kit tells teachers to use blue or black pens to mark assignments because red is considered too confrontational.

The effort to handle students with care – backed by Health Minister Stephen Robertson, pictured – also includes teachers being told to apologise to them when necessary and organise “check-ins” at the start of each day to assess how they are feeling.

The Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations last night demanded the kit be scrapped.

“It is definitely over the top and quite unbelievable,” council president Margaret Black said.

“We’re calling for our children to grow up normally, including their work being marked with a red pen.”

The Good Mental Health Rocks kit – of which 1000 have been distributed – was revealed in State Parliament yesterday by the Opposition, which has labelled the red pen advice “kooky, loony, loopy, Left policy”.

The kits were distributed to 29 schools which participated in the Queensland Rock Eisteddfod this year.

The Bligh Government yesterday defended the kits, which cost almost $3000, and labelled the attack a “cheap political stunt” which failed to understand serious mental health issues.

Mr Robertson said teachers did not have to use the advice devised by specialists as it contained only hints and tips.

“This is not something you ridicule,” he said.

“You only have to look at the suicide rates in Queensland to know that this is no laughing matter.”

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the pen advice showed priorities were wrong when literacy and numeracy levels were so low.

“This is a kooky, loony, loopy, Left policy from a Labor Government that is out of touch,” he said.

The kit said the so-called “mind dumps” allowed students to write down everything in their mind and then throw the piece of paper in the bin.

Another tip was a “steam time”, allowing for one-on-one chats with teachers each week.

Psychologists are split on the red pen advice but Toowoomba child psychologist Paul Bramston said a softer colour could help some children with problems.

“The red pen brings up association of aggression more than blue or black as red is linked more with dramatic things like stop signs,” Dr Bramston said.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan hung up on The Courier-Mail after claiming the kit did not exist and the Government would never give that advice to teachers.

“Mental health is a serious issue,” Mr Ryan said.

“It is disgraceful the Liberal National Party would make fun of mental health.”

Mental illness group Mind Frame said about 14 per cent of children between four and 17 suffered from mental problems.

Of course, nobody wants to see their work looking like this:


If you think you’re going to need it, you can always order the shirt


Hopefully, things never get this bad.

Comic from F-Minus. See more of them at


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