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Are Gel Pens School Distractions or Creativity Boons?

Why do teachers frown upon gel pens and why do schools ban them? Are they illegible, distracting, or fueling envy?

For many years, gel pens provide the smoothest lines in writing anything from notes to journal entries because they flow easier than the common ballpoint pen, which requires force to write. Scrapbookers use this to either embellish their pages or write captions to describe their photos. Girls from their tweens to early teens (like me, when I was a fifth grader myself) use them to write notes to friends, using bubbly print handwriting that is just steps up from the first handwriting lessons.

Gel pens come in all different colors – from darkest blues and blacks to a rainbow of bright and neon hues, and some have shine or glitter to make their writings as interesting. But take a look at the school supplies list in your elementary school your child(ren) goes to: most of them clearly state that gel pens are not allowed, but why do teachers draw the line on them for the sake of curriculum?

Firstly, because gel pens have a rainbow-sized range of hues and most have the eye-dazzling glitter, they are a major distraction in the classroom. For many years, teachers lauded the best homework assignments and tests submitted by their “star” students neither only because they are accurate in their answers nor thy wrote it legibly, but they used the standard black or blue pen or #2 pencil. No gel pen, unless in those colors opaque and dull if allowed, does that – teachers find it hard to read an essay all in neon purple or pink. (That goes for the more color-indecipherable, so-called milky-pens, which are suitable for writing on dark paper.)

That leads to them being so illegible, and the ease of readability makes them forbidden in the curriculum in the first place. If you write a persuasive, five-paragraph essay all in lagoon blue, you might as well get a D, F, or a complete zero on it.

Also, gel pens are expensive to purchase – and they incite tantrums over those stylish writing utensils. Unlike conventional blue-or-black pens – which cost cents per pen, they cost from a few dollars a pop. Those who are low-income yearn to be like their more affluent peers who use them, but they (and their parents) think that they are financially out of reach.

Simply put, the bright-hued writing instruments widen the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” and induce the latter stealing from the former. The set of gel pens vary from student to student, depending on the hue and/or material that makes them pop. Because of the variations, they envy the coolest pens the others already have, thus begging their parents for them.

But are gel pens all that distracting? Do they show the creative side of students all the while decreasing their academic grades for being so illegible in color? Do they widen the gap between economic classes of students and cause them to covet them? As long as they are only in the standard dark, non-neon blue or dull, non-glittery black, they are OK in schools as they don’t incite the art of scholastic distraction.

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  1. Jo Oliver

    On June 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm


    I’m telling you these school officials are the ones we need to be teaching something to. I am wondering if the majority of them have any common sense, much less creativity and problem solving skills. I see the point of uniformity in blue or black ink, but it is going overboard to declare what types of blue and black ink are acceptable, and even more lame to single out gel pens. These teachers and administrators have obviously not looked at very many pens outside Wal-Mart. Example- http://www.pianki.com/Pineider-Writing-Instruments_c_582-1.html Society has become so politically correct~ sad!

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