The value of pink erasers

When I was in school, and we were bored in class, we sometimes passed around scrunched up pieces of paper.  We tossed them whenever the teacher turned her back or we maintained eyes front, in a studious pose, and passed them surreptitiously palm-to-palm. This amused us and connected us.

Or we wrote on pink erasers.  They were smallish, so you couldn’t fit much on them, maybe fewer than 50 characters.  But you could quickly delete any comments if necessary.  So you’d focus on the most important stuff, like:


“I’m bored”

“Question #25?”

“Do you like Kevin? Circle yes or no.”

Back in the 70s and 80s, pink erasers had a negative impact on classroom behaviour – they supported student distraction and cheating.

The pink eraser only served one educational purpose. It didn’t provide access to a limitless world of information, or connect you to students and learning around the world; and you couldn’t toss one to your Mom to ask if you could stay late to work on an assignment. No, the pink eraser only functioned to ensure that work was neat.  It is debatable if Marshall McLuhan would have even considered it to be an extension of a student.

I wonder.  Did educators debate the value of pink erasers and whether or not their potential for negative classroom behaviour outweighed their ability to improve work?  Did they discuss how to manage classrooms with pink erasers?  Did teachers sit in staff meetings discussing how to ban them or how long to keep them once confiscated?

Pink erasers have been a part of our classrooms for a long time (since 1770 – and that is no exaggeration!) and although students may still need the odd reminder of when it is appropriate and polite to use them, they know.

How long before cell phones are the same?

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