Red Pen

I have once read a beautiful quotation that reads, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in him, and a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” The term ‘leader’ is not restricted to a military leader, or a leader of a country; a leader can be a bus driver, a company manager, a schoolteacher, or a government employee. No matter what type of leader you are, it is important that you influence others.

When we were kids, nothing would worry us, at school, more than beating and the red pen. We wished that the teachers would replace the red pen with beating, as it would be less tormenting than the agony the red pen brought. The hardest moments at school were when we stood in a queue to have our homework checked and corrected—moments that seemed to last forever!
Standing shy and frightened, we were praying to Allah not to have the same fate of the student whose notebook had been totally distorted with red markings. When handing the notebooks to the teacher, we would often start talking just to distract the teacher’s attention; however, he would draw his ‘sword’ out of his pocket and ‘stab’ our notebooks along with all our dreams and aspirations, our self confidence, our future, and our emotions and feelings. Whenever the teacher stabbed a word with his ‘sword’, it would bleed in red, and another would cry, only to receive a fatal blow that ended its life.
Our school teachers used to look for mistakes, for the empty part of the glass, even if it was negligible compared to the part filled with liquid. They never cared about the full part. The only thing they cared about was shedding the ‘red blood’.
Some people see red as a symbol of war; others consider it as the color of power and violence. Yet, others portray devil as red. However, some consider red as the color of love and femininity. People admire a woman when she blushes and her cheeks become rosy.
Many businessmen wear red neckties, to express their power and determination, and on some occasions red carpets are rolled out for VIPs, in expression of their importance in society. Red is the color of danger; the stop signal is red, and an ambulance uses red flashing lights when the patient’s condition is critical.
In China, and the East in general, red is the color of happiness and joy; a bride dresses in red on her wedding, while in South Africa, red is the color of mourning. The Russians used red in the emblems of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the color has since become associated with communism.
I know someone who has developed a phobia of red pen; he refuses to keep one in his office, or even at home. When I asked him why, he told me that, for him, a red pen represented dominance. He said that with this red pen, his teacher used to intimidate him, and that whenever he received his grade report, he saw red circles. He always wondered why those circles were could not be marked in blue or green! I commented that maybe red is simply more visible. “Or bloodier…,” he added.
We grew up both loving and hating that pen. We sought to get one or two rewarding red stars in our notebooks, to show them to everyone at home. It all depended on the teacher’s mood, as, although some of us were sure they had done the homework properly, none of us would predict the amount of red on the homework page.
No one had ever thought of discussing their concerns regarding the red pen with the teacher. We had never even thought that the teacher could be wrong and that we were right; we were not seeking the truth. At school, we acted to please the teacher, rather than to understand the lesson. A teacher once asked me to tell a lie, which I did without a moment’s hesitation. As a result, he beat me with his red ruler, explaining that he only wanted to test me, and that I should have refused to lie. However, I was certain that he would have still punished me had I refused his request.
The red pen was a source of psychological perplexity for us. With a scratch of this red pen, we would succeed, yet, with another, we would fail. One of my teachers used to put three pens in his top pocket. As all three were red, when he wanted to use a different color, he would borrow, or rather snatch, it from one of the students.
In movies and television series, we see angry authorities close shops and seal them with red wax. We still hear today that we should not “cross the red lines.” A notion of red signaling danger must have emerged from that awful red pen, whose red ink is still ‘pumped’ into each and every facet of the Arab World. We all learned at an early age that those who upset the teacher would be blown up for crossing the red line, while those who please him would have red carpets rolled out for them, and would live happily ever after.
I suggest that we boycott the red color and replace it with green. Green is the color of peace, the color of grass. Green is found in most of the Irish emblems, it is the color of the flag of Islam, and it is the symbol of spring. In order for the boycott to be successful, I suggest that all the ministries of education in the Arab World ban the use of red pens, and replace them with green ones, in the hope that they will create a new Arab generation that can establish love for teachers, and can work positively with them, not for them.

by : elarassi

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